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How to Repel Chiggers with Powdered Sulfur

Patting powdered sulfur on skin, socks and shoes can repel chiggers to keep them from biting.

Chiggers are small mites that lurk on grasses and bushes waiting for a warm-blooded creature to come by and offer them a meal. The bites are not dangerous but they can be horribly itchy. The secret in avoiding chigger bites is to repel chiggers effectively. But how can you do that? Readers have their own favorite techniques.

Using Sulfur Against Chiggers:

Q. I have had a big problem with chiggers in my yard. They seem to love pine straw and I use it to mulch my trees and garden.

A pharmacist suggested sulfur, which I used successfully for years. Tucking my pants into my socks and dusting my sneakers and socks with sulfur powder works! I have had trouble lately finding it. I also wonder if it will keep away ticks.

A. The US Forest Service suggests that sulfur powder can indeed repel ticks. This old-fashioned remedy has sometimes been called “flowers of sulphur.” People tell us that they put the powder in a sock and use that to dust their shoes, socks and pantlegs. Sulfur can be found online or in garden stores.

You may also want to consider treating shoes, socks or pants with permethrin. This insect repellent is also helpful in keeping ticks away. Keep reading for information about DEET.

How to Repel Chiggers in Florida:

Q. As a fifth-generation Floridian, I know that the most effective prevention for chigger bites is sulfur powder applied lightly to the skin below the knees. It lasts all day and is effective.

After gardening or tramping in the woods, take a soapy shower and use a soapy washcloth to scrub the skin, especially around the ankles and behind the knees. No more chiggers. Forget the DEET except for mosquitoes.

A. Powdered sulfur, also called flower of sulfur, can be purchased online or in some drugstores. When applying it to the skin, be careful not to inhale any. It can be irritating to the lungs.

Your technique of bathing or showering with a heavy soap lather and plenty of scrubbing is also endorsed by the University of Minnesota extension service. If you do get a bite, hot water (not hot enough to burn, but hot enough to be uncomfortable) for a few seconds can stop the itch for hours.

Bug Repellent Also Works:

Remember that insect repellent can also keep chiggers away. Consumer Reports found Sawyer Picaridin effective against chiggers and ticks as well as mosquitoes. DEET also works to repel chiggers.

When mosquitoes are transmitting diseases like dengue or Zika, you’ll want to keep the DEET handy and use it whenever you might be exposed to mosquitoes as well as chiggers.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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