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Does Epsom salt get rid of chiggers?

Chiggers, also known as red bugs, are a type of mite that can cause itchy rashes on the skin. Many people wonder if Epsom salt can help get rid of chiggers and relieve the itching they cause. In this article, we’ll explore whether Epsom salt is an effective treatment for chigger bites.

What Are Chiggers?

Chiggers are tiny larval mites that belong to the Trombiculidae family. They are found throughout the United States, but are most common in the Southeast and Midwest. Chiggers live in tall weeds and grassy areas and attach themselves to passing animals or humans.

When chiggers bite, they inject their saliva into the skin. This saliva contains an enzyme called proteolytic enzyme that breaks down skin cells. The bitten area becomes hardened and forms a tube-like structure called a stylostome. The chigger then feeds on skin tissue through this tube for several days.

Chiggers themselves do not burrow into or live inside the skin. They fall off after feeding. However, the stylostome they create and their saliva cause an itchy, red welt to form at the bite site. This can persist for up to two weeks. Scratching the bites can lead to skin breakdown and potential infection.

Signs and Symptoms of Chigger Bites

Chigger bites usually take 1-3 hours to appear after initial exposure. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Intense itching, often severe, at the bite site
  • Red welts or bumps on the skin that may look like pimples or blisters
  • A small, hard knot under the skin where the chigger detached from biting
  • Skin rash or clusters of bites
  • Swelling, if multiple bites occur in the same area

The itching is often the worst symptom of chigger bites. The intense itching results from the chigger saliva and can last up to two weeks after the initial bite occured.

Where on the Body Do Chiggers Bite?

Chiggers often bite exposed skin around the ankles, waistline, armpits, or other areas where clothing fits tightly. Some of the most common places for chigger bites include:

  • Ankles
  • Waistline
  • Groin
  • Thighs
  • Armpits
  • Behind the knees
  • Around the genitals

Any exposed skin is potentially at risk for chigger bites when in grassy or overgrown areas. Wearing protective clothing can help prevent bites.

What Is Epsom Salt?

Epsom salt is a mineral compound comprised of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen. Some key facts about Epsom salt include:

  • Its chemical structure is magnesium sulfate (MgSO4).
  • It was originally discovered in the bitter saline spring waters of Epsom, England.
  • Epsom salt crystals are usually white in color but can sometimes appear yellowish or grayish.
  • It dissolves easily in water.
  • It has many therapeutic uses for soaking and relaxation.
  • It can be used as a fertilizer or household cleaner.
  • It has a slightly salty taste but no odor.

In addition to its other applications, some people use Epsom salt to treat skin abrasions, reduce swelling, and ease itchiness.

Does Epsom Salt Get Rid of Chiggers?

There is no scientific evidence showing that Epsom salt is an effective treatment for chigger bites in particular. However, some people do use Epsom salt soaks or scrubs in an effort to relieve chigger bite itching and irritation.

There are a few reasons why Epsom salt may provide some relief from chigger bites:

  • It helps reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • It has an exfoliating effect to remove dead skin cells.
  • It may help soothe itchy skin and rashes.
  • Its magnesium content may calm nerve endings and itchiness.

Epsom salt does not actually kill, repel or remove chiggers from the skin. But it may temporarily provide comfort from the itching and skin irritation they cause.

Other Remedies for Chigger Bites

While Epsom salt may help alleviate discomfort from chigger bites, there are other remedies that can also be effective including:

  • Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
  • Antihistamines like Benadryl to reduce itching
  • Oatmeal baths for soothing relief
  • Aloe vera gel to heal skin inflammation
  • Calamine lotion to ease itching and rashes
  • Warm compress over the irritated area
  • Antiseptic cream to prevent infection
  • Oral antibiotics if the bite area becomes infected

How to Use Epsom Salt for Chigger Bites

If you want to try using Epsom salts for chigger bites, here are some methods:

Epsom Salt Soak

Add 1-2 cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soak the affected area for 15-20 minutes. The magnesium in the salt may help reduce inflammation while the warm water can soothe itchy skin. Be sure to rinse skin and pat dry afterwards.

Epsom Salt Scrub

Mix some Epsom salts with a bit of water to form a paste. Gently scrub this paste over the bite areas, rinsing away with warm water afterwards. This may help exfoliate dead cells and skin debris.

Epsom Salt Compress

Dissolve Epsom salt in hot water, then soak a clean washcloth in the solution. Apply the hot compress to the affected area for 10-15 minutes to reduce swelling and itching.

Be careful not to scrub too aggressively, as this can further irritate the bitten skin. Only use Epsom salt externally and avoid getting any inside eyes, nose, or open wounds.

Are There Risks to Using Epsom Salts on Chigger Bites?

For most people, using Epsom salt is generally considered safe for treating chigger bites, as long as proper precautions are taken:

  • Always use it externally and avoid ingesting it.
  • Watch out for allergies or skin sensitivities.
  • Don’t use on open wounds or damaged skin.
  • Avoid getting it near eyes and mucous membranes.
  • Be careful using Epsom salt if you have diabetes, kidney disease or heart issues.
  • Talk to a doctor before using if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Test a small amount on healthy skin first to check for any irritation before applying to chigger bites. Seek medical treatment if rashes, itching, swelling or other symptoms persist or worsen.

Preventing Chigger Bites

The best way to deal with chiggers is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Here are some tips that can help prevent chigger bites:

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves if walking in wooded or grassy areas.
  • Tuck pants into socks and shirt into waistband when outdoors.
  • Use insect repellent containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing.
  • Take a shower and wash clothes right after coming indoors.
  • Avoid sitting on the bare ground while outside.
  • Carefully remove any ticks found on skin to prevent bites.
  • Keep lawns and brush well-mowed around the home.

When to See a Doctor for Chigger Bites

In most cases, chigger bites can be safely managed at home. See a doctor if any of the following occur:

  • The rash continues to spread or worsen.
  • New symptoms like fever, nausea or dizziness develop.
  • The bites show signs of a bacterial infection, such as oozing pus.
  • The itching and swelling cause trouble sleeping or performing daily activities.
  • You experience hives, trouble breathing or other signs of an allergic reaction.

Rarely, some people may develop a severe allergic reaction or bacterial skin infection from chigger bites. Seeking prompt medical treatment can help prevent complications.


While there is no definitive proof that Epsom salt effectively treats chigger bites, some people do find it helpful to reduce swelling, itching and discomfort. Epsom salt has anti-inflammatory properties and may provide temporary relief when used in baths, scrubs or compresses on the affected skin.

However, it does not kill, repel or remove chiggers themselves. Other remedies like topical hydrocortisone cream, oral antihistamines and antibacterial ointments may also be beneficial for symptom relief. Preventing bites by wearing protective clothing and using insect repellent is the best way to avoid problems with chiggers altogether.