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Mite Bites

By Robert A. Barish, MD, MBA, Professor of Emergency Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago ; Thomas Arnold, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport

Mites, like ticks, are closely related to spiders. Biting mites, sometimes carried as parasites on the bodies of humans and animals, may transmit disease to humans.

Mite infestations are common and are responsible for the intensely itchy rash caused by the bites of chiggers (mite larvae), for scabies, other itchy rashes, and a number of other disorders. The effects on the tissues around the bite vary in severity. In some Asian countries and Australia, chiggers may transmit scrub typhus.

Mites that bite come from a variety of sources, including

  • Birds

  • Rodents

  • Cats, dogs (especially puppies), and rabbits

  • Pigs

  • Straw, hay, seeds, and other plant material

Some mites, such as those that cause scabies, bite and burrow under the skin. Demodex mites cause a similar rash (sometimes called mange).

Some mites do not bite, but they cause allergic reactions such as

  • Grocer's itch (allergic contact dermatitis), which affects people who handle stored grain products, cheese, and other foods

  • Wheezing as a reaction to the waste products of dust mites commonly found in pillows, mattresses, and carpets


  • Anti-itch medicines, sometimes antibiotics or application of permethrin or lindane

Corticosteroid creams or antihistamines taken by mouth are used to control itching. Antibiotics taken by mouth are given if mites have burrowed under the skin. Scabies is treated by applying a cream containing permethrin or a solution of lindane. A cream containing a corticosteroid is sometimes used for a few days to reduce itching. If permethrin or lindane is used, it is given before the corticosteroid.