Are they ticks or mites?
Health specialists say ticks and mites are very similar – both are arachnids, as are spiders and scorpions.
What people are calling turkey mites are actually ticks, says Charles Hiter, public health director at the Pennyrile Area Health Department.
“Right now is a big time for them,” Hiter said. “They’re ticks, or tick larvae.”
Anyone who has these types of bites and experiences conditions such as fever, fatigue or flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention. Otherwise, the itch will last from a few days to maybe a week or two.
He explains that conditions over the last several months – including a mild winter, wet spring and moderately dry late summer – have created near perfect conditions for tick hatching.
Ticks and chiggers are the two culprits that are creating big problems for folks’ ankles right now. Keeping them away is similar, but different.
Hiter recommends taking precautions when outdoors, especially in grown up or woody areas.
“Wear socks and use a repellant,” Hiter said.
Repellants are not all created equal. To keep ticks off, you must use an insecticide that includes the active ingredient Permethrin or some type of pyrethroid. This type of spray actually kills ticks. Chiggers are another matter. They can be driven back by sprays or rub-on repellents that contain DEET, such as products under the brand names Cutter, Repel or Off. Those products do not seem to be as effective at warding off the small ticks that are biting people right now.
Chiggers are also known as harvest mites, perhaps because at harvest time is when they’re most active. They are microscopic parasites that latch onto and bite warm blooded creatures like you and me. Despite common belief, they don’t drill into your skin and set up shop. Pasting them over with nail polish will not smother them, but it will create a crusty mess on your personal exterior.
“I have heard of that remedy, but by the time you see a red spot on your skin, the chigger is long gone,” said Dee Brasher, the Agriculture Extension Agent in Crittenden County.
She recommends showering right after hiking or being in places where chiggers or ticks might be common. It’s a good preventative method, especially for chiggers which don’t tend to latch on too tightly and will wash off easily.
Chiggers dine on humans and move on to bite again. In their wake, they leave a red, swollen spot; a skin irritation or dermatitis that can be the bane of a person’s existence if inflicted en masse.
The best treatment for chigger bites is a topical analgesic, something with hydrochloride, zinc acetate and/or hydrocortisone. Stopping the itch is about the only remedy. You can, however, scratch the spot until it becomes a sore. Some folks think sores heal quicker than chigger bites.
Hiter said that he doesn’t have any data or way to quantify it, BUT there seems to be an uptick in the number of regional cases of bed bugs and lice.
“I have anecdotally heard an increased number of possible bed bugs as well as lice,” he said. “No hard numbers, there just seems to be more of it right now.”