What are jiggers and what do their bites look like? | The Sun
30th August 2023

INSECT bites are a not-so-pleasant souvenir many of us bring back from our holidays.

And it can often be hard to figure what kind of creepy crawly has left us with such a memento.

One creature you might not have heard of are jiggers – also known as chigoe or sand fleas.

The little pests often go for your feet and ankles, leaving a line of itchy bites that mask something pretty gross.

But you're unlikely to fall victim to jiggers unless you've travelled to certain areas.

Here's everything you need to know.

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What are jiggers and what do they look like?

Jiggers are little fleas known by an number of different names and can be found in sandy areas, such as beaches, farms, and stables.

They're pretty tiny, not easy to spot with a naked eye.

Luckily for Brits, you should be safe from these painful bites unless you're travelling to an area with chigoe fleas.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the little pests can be found in limited distribution in Central and South America, Africa and the Indian sub-continent.

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Meanwhile, Health reported that you may find jiggers in:

  • Mexico
  • South America
  • the West Indies
  • Africa

What do jigger bites look like?

Jigger bites will appear as a cluster of red dots on your skin.

You probably won't notice if a sand flea is having a nibble of you in the moment.

But the bite itself won't necessarily be the problem.

The female fleas will usually go for your ankles and feet.

They'll burrow into the skin there, after which males will meet them briefly to reproduce, according to Nancy Hinkle, a professor at the University of Georgia's Department of Entomology.

She told Health that this process is called tungiasis.

The female flea will expel her eggs to the ground after mating and will eventually die and fall out of your foot after about two weeks.

After burrowing under the skin, the flea typically forms a white, disc-like shape with a black point at the centre, according to Very Well Health.

Over time, the round skin lesion turns black and you miht also experience inflammation, pain, swelling, and itching.

You're not the only one whose stomach is turning at the thought. But according to Dr Hinkle, even the burrowing and egg laying isn't the problem.

Basically, the opening in your skin created by the female jigger crawling into it can make you vulnerable to developing a bacterial infection, which in some cases can lead to tetanus or gangrene.

Do jiggers go away on their own?

Dr Hinkle advised you get the fleas removed from your skin in a sterile way and then covered in a dressing.

You'll then be given a tetanus shot if yours isn't up to date, and medications such as dimethicone are pretty effective in treating the bites.

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How do you prevent jigger bites?

The best way to protect yourself from being bitten by chigoe fleas – or any another critter for that matter – is to wear insect repellent.

It's best to opt for a bug spray that contains DEET.

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