Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Itchy and Scratchy

I have contributed significantly to the world’s mosquito population. There have been thousands (perhaps even millions) of mosquito eggs nourished with my blood. This summer alone, despite precautions, I’ve been bit at least 100 times. I know mosquitoes are a valuable part of our ecosystem. Both the males and females pollinate flowers. The fish eat the larvae and birds eat the adults. I don’t mind their buzzing around my face or even sharing a bit of my blood, but the itchy bites drive me mad.

I’m a mosquito magnet. I’ve got sweet, tasty blood. I’ve been pursued by mosquitoes and dealt with the consequences my whole life. When I was young, I developed a special method for scratching mosquito bites without breaking the skin; I’d scratch around the bite. The itch was mostly soothed, and I wasn’t a mess of scabs, like my sister Tabitha. She would scratch them until they bled, but at least they stopped itching. My friend Ryan has another method for dealing with the itch. He drives the end of his fingernail into the bite until a crease is left in his skin. Then, he rotates his finger ninety degrees and makes a second crease, crossing the first, and creating an “X.” He claims that this ends the itch. I've tried it, but remain unconvinced of the cross method. This summer, I am so often covered in marble-sized, itchy bumps, that I’ve given up on scratching around them or making crosses. I just reach down, pull up my pant leg, and scratch away. Yes, it’s is unladylike. Yes, I bleed. I can’t help it. I am just so damn itchy.

I keep hydrocortisone cream at work and another tube at home. I apply it often. The effect is mostly a placebo. I must continue to believe that it works. Even if it doesn’t, applying the cream helps me to stay occupied when the itchies strike. I'd rather rub placebo cream onto my bites than sit rigidly in my chair, biting my cheeks in an effort not scratch myself raw. When I do absentmindedly scratch, I am reminded not to when I encounter the sticky residue the cream leaves on my skin.

The key is not to be bitten in the first place. Staying inside is not an option. Neither is long sleeves, pants, or (horror!) shoes and socks. Every evening, before gardening, I apply my invisible but smelly mosquito shield of bug spray. I apply it in coats, like nail polish, waiting for each application to dry before beginning the next. I am sure to spray skin that might be revealed as I garden, such as my upper thigh and lower back. Still, I’m bitten.

My second level of defense is After Bite. It is a stinky, ammonia solution that, when applied to the bite very soon after it is received, prevents an itchy welt from developing. I carry it with me, in my gardening apron, and apply it almost immediately, with good results.

I usually miss a bite or two, and by the time I’ve retired to the house and began to leaf through a gardening book, they’ve developed into hot, itchy lumps. (I have a seriously unattractive reaction to mosquito bites. They look especially fetching with cellulite.) I keep the hydrocortisone within arms reach and plaster myself with it.

I’m told that this year is a particularly bad one for mosquitoes. Just my luck: a cicada explosion last year and man-eating mosquitoes this year. I suppose it’ll be locusts in 2006. The mosquitoes, along with the humid, sticky weather, make me eager for the first frosts of fall, even though it marks the decline of the growing season. Die, mosquitoes, die!


Blogger Scott in Washington said...

Its the itchy and scratchy show!

3:05 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Have you tried putting toothpaste on 'em? The minty kind is best, it's like scratching, but not. I seem to repel the mosquitos, I had 3 bites this year, and I sit on my patio everynight. I got 2 of them after a night of camping in the woods, with no chemicals. Socks and pants help immensely as they do seem to like my ankles...Our new "old house", however, is a mosquito breeding ground, I counted at least 15 tires in the woods behind the house. It's the only area of Cleveland that had a few West Nile cases, and I believe they started in our new backyard. Bracing myself for the tire project...

4:57 PM  
Blogger SmilingJudy said...

:) I have the same problem. I go through Skin So Soft by the gallon. Another trick I found recently is to douse my "problem areas" with cold water ASAP after being outside. Somehow it curbs the itch and causes the bites to not get so inflamed.

7:31 PM  
Blogger OldRoses said...

I take it West Nile virus hasn't reached your part of the country. Ever since it appeared, I have ceased going outside when the mosquitoes come out.

I'm like you, a mosquito magnet. I can be in a crowd of people, no one will get bitten but I will be covered with bites.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Drink Gin and Tonic, lots of it! The tonic water contains quinine which will repel the bugs when you perspire and if they do bite, you won't feel a thing!
Warning alcohol may cause pregnancy if consumed in excess or is that should not be consumed in excess by pregnant women?

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Trissa said...

Have you tried taking vitamin b? If It has seemed to help with me in the past, but I haven't been taking it this year and I got eaten alive the other night. It might be worth a try!

9:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rub a little wetted bar soap on the bites. just enough to make a film on your skin. It takes care of the itch and lets the angry red welts disappear.

We have West Nile Virus and normally an asult healthy person will not be struck down by the virus and will begin developing antibodies. I have heard it is like the chicken pox that once you had it you cannot get it again.

7:45 AM  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Thanks for all the advice! Before going outside, I think I'll take vitamin B with a little gin and tonic, coat myself in toothpaste, and dab a little skin-so-soft behind the ears. After gardening, I'll treat myself to a cold shower and soap up afterwards. :)

I'm not too worried about the mosquito born diseases. I figure I'd recover from West Nile (and, HEY, I get a few days off work!). At least I haven't heard of any malaria reports this year.

9:57 AM  
Blogger crazygramma said...

I like the Gin & Tonic remedy and as I am having an outdoor party at my place this weekend I think I will see if Rum & Coke works as well. Stand by for the verdict!

9:27 PM  
Blogger Sylvana said...

Caladryl (calamine) is what I use. I have nasty reactions to mosquitoes to and this is the only thing that takes the itch away. It's original formula was pink, but I know Walgreens carries a clear version.

Crazy Gramma, when's the party? I love rum and coke. Especially Captns spiced rum. YUM!

1:28 PM  

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