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Flea, Mite, or Chigger Bites in Children

What are flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Fleas, mites, and chiggers are different kinds of small insects. They are also parasites. This means they feed off the blood, skin, or both of animals and humans. These insects are more common in the warm weather. They bite skin and cause symptoms such as bumps, redness, pain, or itching.

What causes flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Fleas, mites, and chiggers often bite humans, but these bugs are not harmful.  Close contact with the insects outdoors can lead to bites.

Who is at risk for flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Children who spend more time outdoors in the summer with skin exposed are more likely to get insect bites. 

What are the symptoms of flea, mite, or chigger bites?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Small bumps on the skin
  • Pain or itching in the area
  • Redness, swelling, or blistering

The symptoms of flea, mite, or chigger bites can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How are flea, mite, or chigger bites diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam.

It may be difficult to tell which type of insect caused the bites. It can also be hard to tell if the symptoms are from poison ivy or other skin condition.

How are flea, mite, or chigger bites treated?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Treatment may include:

  • Cleaning the area well with soap and water.
  • Giving your child an allergy medicine (antihistamine) for itching. Antihistamines can be taken by mouth (orally) as a pill or liquid. Or they can be applied to the skin (topical) in the form of a cream or ointment. Be sure to follow the instructions on the medicine label. 
  • Giving your child an over-the-counter pain medicine if advised by the healthcare provider. Make sure to follow instructions on the medicine label. 
  • Keeping your child's fingernails short. This is to prevent a skin infection caused by scratching.

Can flea, mite, or chigger bites be prevented?

You can help prevent insect bites in your child by:

  • Talking with your child's healthcare provider about a safe insect repellent to use on your child
  • Not using heavily scented soaps, lotions, and other products on your child
  • Having your child wear long sleeves and long pants when possible
  • Tucking your child’s pant legs into his or her socks or shoes
  • Making sure your child avoids wooded, brushy, and grassy areas when possible
  • Using products to protect your pets from fleas

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child has the following symptoms:

  • Pain or itching that gets worse
  • Signs of infection such as redness, warmth, swelling, or fluid leaking from the skin
  • Fever

Call 911 if your child has signs of a severe allergic reaction such as:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Tightness in the throat or chest
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Nausea and vomiting

Key points about flea, mite, or chigger bites

  • Fleas, mites, and chiggers are different kinds of small insects.
  • They bite skin and cause symptoms such as bumps, redness, pain, or itching.
  • Close contact with the insects outdoors can lead to bites.
  • Treatment may include allergy medicine and over-the-counter pain medicine. 
  • You can help prevent insect bites in your child by using a safe insect repellent.
  • Call 911 if your child has signs of a severe allergic reaction such as trouble breathing or nausea.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Date Last Reviewed: 4/15/2015
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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