Thursday, August 7, 2014


Chiggers, Red bugs, scrub-itch, berry bugs, harvest mites. That’s what I got going on right now. Being that I’m in the woods nearly every day--wearing shorts and ankle socks because I’m an idiot who doesn’t learn from past mistakes--it seems every summer I find myself scraping away at my ankles and behind my knees, driven to the brink of madness by the little red bumps and vowing to find a remedy that works.

Here, from Wikipedia:

After returning from a chigger-infested area, launder the field clothes in soapy, hot water. As soon as possible, take a good hot bath or shower and soap repeatedly. The chiggers may be dislodged, but you will still have the stylostomes, causing the severe itch. Scratching deep to remove stylostomes can cause secondary infections. For temporary relief of itching, apply ointments of benzocaine, hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, New Skin, After Bite, or others recommended by your pharmacist or medical doctor. Some use Vaseline, cold cream, baby oil, or fingernail polish. 

I noticed that there is nothing in the above about lopping off your feet with a chainsaw. Perhaps I’ll add that as a public service. And as bad as it is while typing this, it's even worse at night while lying in bed, fantasizing about hair brush bristles, the sharp teeth of keys, rubbing my legs against flakes of rusty metal, anything, ANYTHING to stop the madness. Miserable and out of my senses with itch syndrome (it’s a thing, right?), my condition only worsened by all of the salt in the bed.

Salt? You ask? Well let’s back up to the real embarrassing part, when I got home from work yesterday and fell to the floor, stripping my clothes and tearing into my skin like I was wearing an invisible straight jacket. I jumped on the computer and bravely Googled Chiggers. Why was this brave? Well, because only the day before I saw a red mark on my son and freaked out, thinking it was Ring Worm. It wasn’t, so you can stop thinking my family is a bunch of lepers. But what did happen was that I clicked images and I will never, ever be the same, because I was treated to the twisted, hairy recesses of Google's servers, and it’s a place that I don’t want to visit again if I can help it. Moving on.

Only this time Google led me to a new treatment, a household procedure that gave me a glimmer of hope: Vicks vapor rub, mixed with salt. Now we're in business, I thought, and that night after a shower, as my wife sat on the couch, I spread myself on the living room floor and basted my arms, legs, and uh, other regions with a salty concoction of Vick’s Vapor Rub and iodized salt. Oh I was a turkey all right. My poor wife, I can’t imagine the bemoaning regret that must have barreled through her head at that moment, because I think her lips were moving, silently repeating our wedding vows like a chant or a spell. I wasn’t in a position to see her.

Now, just in case you ever find yourself wanting to take a fire rake to your shins, let me tell you that the Vapor Rub Mix is not the way to go. Last year I went with diluted bleach, only I don’t think I diluted it enough and the burn was nearly as bad as the itching. Then there’s nail polish, but that’s too time consuming.

And then there’s science. I read today, while scratching at my ankles and after spending my life in the south, I found this on Medicine Net:

Many home remedies for chigger bites are based upon the incorrect belief that chiggers burrow into and remain in the skin. Nail polish, alcohol, and bleach have been applied to the bites to attempt to “suffocate” or kill the chiggers. But because the chiggers are not present in the skin, these methods are not effective.

So there, I'll wait it out with self-control and cortizone. Because I don't need to baste myself with Vick’s Vapor Rub on the living room floor to make my wife scramble her brain trying to remember why she married me. Nope, I can do that on my own.

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