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Chigger Bites Bug Central Texans

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(KCEN) -- Tiny, Texas “Tarzans” are in their hay day in central Texas, and they could ruin your day.

Chiggers can swing from the grass onto unsuspecting hosts who are out enjoying the outdoors.

The bug bites can multiply and spread to some of the most uncomfortable places, and they can take days or even weeks to get rid of.

Here’s the itchy truth about the unwelcome critters and how families can prevent and treat them.

If you’re not from central Texas, they might sound like the fictitious “cudies” young kids like to tease each other about.

But although chiggers are virtually invisible, they are not imaginary.

Michael Pilato is from Puerto Rico and has only been in Texas for a few years.

He and his two daughters were enjoying a day at a park in Temple Monday when he first heard of chiggers.

His first questions -- “If someone gets bitten, will they get really sick?”

The answer – Not necessarily, but they’ll likely be irritated and itchy for several days.

Until now, other "baby Texans," like the Bostonian Connolly family have been scratching their heads and their ankles.

When Caryn Connolly learned what chiggers are Monday, they sounded all too familiar.

She asks, “Are they those the small, kind of yellow bugs?”

They usually first attach to the ankles and spread by moving up the body until they get stuck where clothing is tight.

“Often times, they will breed and kind of cause a red bump, usually in multiple clusters,” says Dr. Alan Howell, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Baylor Scott & White hospital in Temple.

Chigger’s affinity for the Lone Star State’s hot and humid climate makes them Texans through and through, and summer is when they love to come out to say, “Howdy.”

“So often times you'll see them up around the belt line,” says Dr. Howell.

They are not unique to Texas and can be found in similar climates across the country and the world.

Chiggers could be lurking anywhere, but they like to hang around in moist areas, near streams and creek beds.

They can’t spread person-to-person, but can be transferred via clothing.

To give the little hitchhikers the thumbs down before they come aboard, Howell suggests applying mosquito repellant and immediately washing off your body and your clothes after being outdoors.

“I think I'll have to start doing that, because we're always outside,” says Pilato.

If the itsy insects already got the drop on you, it's too late to give them shake, but when they bug you, Howell says topical treatments, like Benadryl and Cortizone can help.

He says it’s a common misconception that they borough beneath the skin and can be killed by applying nail polish.

Now that Caryn knows what chiggers are and what to do to keep them away, she says, “I would definitely do it, because they hurt."

After all, the best way to sleep tight, is not to let the chiggers bite.

Reporter: Sophia Stamas

Photographer: Cameron Duckworth

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