Word Wednesday – Chiggers

Yow! What has been causing the rash (pun intended) of bites that I’ve been dealing with recently? Are they from mosquitoes, spiders … What?? I’ve figured it out. Well, truth be told I didn’t figure it out. I showed the most recent three or four to a friend and she said, “Looks like chiggers!” I said, “What the heck are those?”

I’d heard the term but had thought it was a catchall for anything that caused an itch when you were in the woods. Not so. Chiggers are little spider mite larvae that create a microscopic feeding tube (a stylostome) on your body and feed on your tissue as it breaks down. Joy. The itch is your body’s reaction to the stylostome.

The Missouri Department of Conservation has a fun website about discovering nature. The bad news? Chiggers! There is a wealth of information about how to reduce the number of bites … becoming a guy would be a big plus since they bite more women than men. From a different website I learned that they love wet leaves. This is beginning to make perfect sense! I’ve been clearing out the leaves that I had piled on my garden beds last fall which was the last time I suffered an explosion of insane itching. (I see a fabulous excuse in this!)

As a health coach I find it interesting that all of the information I found about chigger bites report that they aren’t a health concern unless you itch too much and cause infection. I beg to differ. As a past and current sufferer, I am fully aware that my immune system is working overtime trying to deal with the invading substance; therefore my hard working immune system will be challenged by anything else that comes along.

If you are suffering an assault on your immune system it is in your best interest to increase its nutritional support. That means eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get as many vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals as you can from natural sources. Use olive oil on your colorful salads and include onion, garlic, radishes and pepper. Choose high quality protein such as wild caught salmon, cod, shrimp and pastured, organic eggs. Reduce or eliminate red meat, fried food and dairy. Supplement with Omega3 and a high quality supplement.

So, not only is my immune system launching an all out war on stylostomes, it is suffering under the attack of my stress reaction to all of this itching. I am blessed to be working from home so I can: a) itch, b) soak in a tub and c) whine to the dog. Actually I’ve been taking an antihistamine, going for long walks with Mikey the Wonder Dog, taking hot showers and doing some deep breathing. (The hot showers intensify the itch for a bit, but then it goes away for a couple of hours.)

Bottom line here is that although the ‘authorities’ say there’s no physical issue other than itching, your immune system will thank you for the support you offer. Eat well, take your mind off of it and try to relax … breathe.

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