After a childhood of miserable summers being feasted on by mosquitos, I was thrilled to move to the lower 48, where bites were insignificant, if annoying, blips on my radar. So when my friends suggested I use some of their Off! spray while out on their porch, I smiled politely and said I’d be fine.
And I was… Right up until somewhere around 1 a.m. when I woke up with ankles that were on fire with itchiness. I figured I was just being a wimp, so I forced myself back to sleep.
In the morning, I actually took a look at my legs and freaked out. The bites were mainly from the knee down — 10 or more on each leg. So my calves/shins/ankles were swollen and lumpy. I also had two or three on each hip and two on my left arm, but the real cause for concern was my legs.
The sight was shocking, but it was the itching that drove me crazy. It was stronger than I remembered and flaring to the point of pain. I had to keep taking breaks from work to pace the floor and shake off the urge to scratch.
Tim went out and got some Benadryl and an anti-itch cream. I used those and some hydrocortisone (the strong stuff that he is always prescribed) to treat the bites.
A quick aside: I want to state that I have a pretty good pain threshold. I’ve been through a lot of painful tests in the hospital, I’ve had MRSA boils which are unimaginably sensitive. In short, I’m not one to go crying over a stubbed toe. So for me to be consumed by pain, it has to be pretty serious.
Even after several applications of hydrocortisone (and gently dabbing off buildup as needed), the bites didn’t look any better. In fact, Tim confirmed that a few looked like they had gotten bigger. Still, I was sure some rest would help, and I went to bed. Where I ended up lying there, crying and pounding my fist into the mattress in time with the flares of pain/itching. I was also kind of panting and probably sounded like I was in labor. But dignity wasn’t real high on my list at that point.
Tim was concerned and said that much pain wasn’t normal. He asked if I wanted to go get seen. I told him I was not going to an ER for friggin’ bug bites! Then I went back to panting and punching the mattress.
After 20 minutes of this, Tim shoved a phone in my hand and had me call a 24-hour nurse line. I explained my symptoms while trying not to grunt into the phone. Even so, I was told to go to a hospital .
I still felt stupid going for bug bites, but at least I had someone I could pin the blame on if the doctors laughed me out of the ER.
Thankfully, the waiting room was virtually empty, and I was seen immediately. Even better, the doctors took the case seriously. I suppose my lumpy legs and panting/grunting were awfully persuasive.
They gave me a Benadryl for the itch and two Vicodin for the pain. I was kind of shocked that they brought out the big guns for pain relief. But after taking it, I was very glad they did. Almost immediately, I was completely unconcerned with pain or itching. Granted, when I tried to read my book, the words would blur out, but I was pretty okay with that, too. Really, I think I would have been okay with an elephant treating me, once those suckers took effect.
We were given prescriptions for Vicodin, a stronger steroid cream and a different version of Benadryl. I spent all of Thursday doped to the gills. Friday I was mainly able to subsist on just Benadryl, as most of the pain had gone away. I’m hoping today, I can start weaning off the Benadryl too. It’s nice to think in complete sentences, I find.
Anyway, I guess the moral of the story is to never be smug when there are biting insects involved. Well, that and never start a land war in Asia…