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Comments, Opinions, and Brief Case Reports
March 12, 2001

New Treatment for Harvest Mite Infestation

Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(5):767-769. doi:

My first serious introduction to the larvae of the harvest mite (more commonly known as chiggers) occurred several years ago, after I moved to the South. Concomitantly, I also became uncomfortably aware of the inadequacies of any effective treatment.1 Anyone who has encountered these larvae is aware of the intense and lingering pruritus associated with their infestation. The larvae cling to vegetation, awaiting the passage of the unsuspecting host. When a human brushes against populated foliage, the larva attaches to its prey and penetrates the dermis. It then initiates a digestive process of the surrounding tissue for sustenance, until, after 3 or 4 days, it has matured enough to exit the host and molt. The liquefaction induced by this summer pest produces a papule that ranges from 0.5 to 2.0 cm in diameter. Prophylaxis with insect repellants is the best strategy, but it is not a guarantee against insects, and accepted medical treatment for the resultant itching is far from effective. For those, like myself, who have experienced the simultaneous infestation by hundreds of these juvenile mites, sleep becomes a fantasy. I have discovered an unlikely postexposure prophylaxis and treatment in the form of common household vinegar (5% acetic acid). Using vinegar alone, I have reduced infestations (as a primitive camper and hiker) from, literally, hundreds of mites to only 5 or 10. Subsequent application of the vinegar to any overlooked, developing papules on the host usually halts their progression and the resultant itching within hours. Early application is the key. Refractory lesions may require additional applications, as required. Since acetic acid also has bactericidal properties, subsequent secondary infection is also reduced.

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