The People's Perspective on Medicine

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.

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.

Now that Zika is spreading in Florida, 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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50 years ago my husband and I put a mixture of petrolion jelly & sulfur on our socks & shirt arms when we went blackberry picking along the ditches. NO Chiggers. The sulfur brown bottle had a different mixture for men & women. NOW, the Co. doesn’t know what you are talking about. I would swear to it. Since I no longer have that old brown bottle ,I have to make my own mixture. I will mix about 1 tsp to 8-10 Petrolion jelly .I have been setting on my back porch and getting eat up.Sulfur is hard to find

But does the sulfur discolor clothes?

When I was a kid in Boy Scouts, the adults made sure you had packed your “Sulfur Sock” on each warm weather campout. (Sulfur Sock- A white cotton sock with powdered sulfur inside the sock, having the top of the sock tied in a knot.) You would apply this either around your shoes, boots, socks or if you were wearing shorts, you would apply it from waist down.

Well after years, I forgot about the sulfur sock and went blackberry picking with my wife daughter and son-n-law.. All of us sprayed up with “off” DEET, and had a great time picking blackberries. The next morning I was covered from waist down with chiggers.. Funny thing,, no one else in the group got any…. I had to go to my DR. to get a shot to stop the itching and get some relief… NOPE, I don’t go blackberry picking anymore. If I do, I’ll take a sulfur sock……

I’ve had a horrible time with chigger bites on my dairy goat udders this year. Has anyone ever tried this on animals?

I was visiting a friend farther out in the country than I live and woke up the next morning with chigger bites on my legs ~ I hadn’t had those bites since I was a girl! I had just read an article about using colloidal silver on bites and stings and applied it to the intensely itching spots. Immediately the itch was gone. I had to apply it morning and evening, but I had no more itching. Much better than the old fingernail polish remedy!

I grew up in Temple, Texas, and the chiggers were abundant in the summer, and we young boys were always getting chigger bites. Those can make you miserable! One of my friends took sulfur tablets every summer. As I recall he seemed to stay free of chigger bites.

In my younger days, I hiked through the woods in northeastern and southeastern Oklahoma frequently. Someone told me about powdered sulfur. I used it as suggested in this article, from knees down. However, I ended up with chiggers everywhere my clothing was tight. I had so many chigger bites, I ran a fever for a day or two and practically lived in a hot bath. After that, I put powdered sulfur everywhere. I’m guessing walking through the underbrush, chiggers got on my arms and clothing. It’s been harder to find powdered sulfur, but I highly recommend it to discourage chiggers!

I helped a friend run some water pipes through some scrub here in Central Texas. I got so many chigger bites I could not wear any clothing for about 5 days.

When I helped another friend runs some fence in tall brush and grass, he supplied the sulfur powder and we tied the bottom of our jean legs tight. Not one single chigger bite.

I found sulfur at my feed store. Cheap too.

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