There is a cure! After our most recent geo-outing inflicted a nearly terminal case (maybe 500 bites on my ankles, the other 2/3 of the Trek Trio suffering a sum total of 3) of chigger bites, I thought for a few seconds about using a paint brush to apply nail polish/Chigarid then decided there must be a better way. Having learned from the helpful folks here that the problem is mite larvae, the simple question was what would kill them? Without risking sharing the same fate? A review of many web sites (including the EPA and FDA) indicated that there were insecticides in veterinary use but all warned against human skin contact. Then it came to me in a blinding flash – marketed as fit for human use, sold over the counter, scrubbed on the heads of hundreds of thousands of grade school children every year, that’s right, HEAD LICE SHAMPOO!!! Just follow the directions. Surprisingly, goes on dry, then is lathered with water and rinsed off. The 0.33% pyrethrin does the trick. Just to make sure it really worked, I initially treated only one ankle, keeping the other as a control. The next morning, the difference was so astounding that the experiment was immediately abandoned and I shampooed the remaining ankle. Problem solved. Only observed one weird thing. After shampooing the control ankle, each bite exuded a tiny droplet of clear fluid which dried to an amber colored grain, all of which brushed off the skin.
Not only did it work like a charm for me, but it comes with a nifty little comb and an opportunity for a little situational humor. My local drugstore stocks shampoos on the same aisle as nail polish and hair coloring, right next to the counter with cosmetics and perfume. So excited about this brainstorm, I had rushed right over on a weekend evening (still in bushwhack gear) and found myself sharing the aisle with three young ladies obviously intent on finding just the right finishing touches for their personal appearance. After a minute or two of fruitless searching, I was approached by a clerk who inquired if she might help me find something. In a clear and confident voice I thanked her and responded that “yes, could she help me find the HEAD LICE SHAMPOO?” Being of middle age and apparently having some experience with these matters, for a moment she stared a bit skeptically at my obviously bald head – clearly no haven for head lice. “Oh no,” I clarified, “it’s not for head lice, it’s for my chiggers,” while pulling up a pant leg to validate my claim. At this point, I noticed she and I were now alone in the aisle, the silence broken only by her laughter and the sound of several pairs of receding footsteps.
So instead of using this idea to make a fortune off of other, chigger bitten geocachers, the idea is now in the public domain. By all means, use insect repellent but if the chiggers still find me, I have my bottle of HEAD LICE SHAMPOO handy.
"You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there." Yogi Berra