Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chiggers; nature's cruel side

Anyone who knows me, and probably some who don't, knows that I absolutely love living in Arkansas. But I'm realistic too. I know that life can't be beautiful all the time.

This week is one of those weeks. While working in the yard, unbeknownst to me, I became dinner for a thriving, starving chigger (Trombiculidae) population. If you have never been victimized by these heinous varmints, it is nothing like anything you have ever experienced! Tick bites are itchy, but at least you can see ticks. When you notice a tick stuck, head first into your skin, you kinda know there is gonna be an itch there. The same is true for mosquitoes, although sometimes they can be invisible too. But mosquito bites are nothing compared to chiggers. Chigger bites are a surprise. You don't see them coming. And the result is pure misery.

I've read plenty about these creepy insects. Contrary to popular belief, they do not burrow into your skin. Rather they insert a feeding tube into which they inject an enzyme which destroys the host tissue. This is what causes the intense itching.

The internet is filled with information, home remedies; some of which are pretty bazaar, and prevention tips.

There must be a world population explosion of chiggers in our front yard too, because I have become their prey. I made a joke on Facebook recently. I made the claim that human beings are not at the top of the food chain. That slot is taken by chiggers, ticks, and mosquitoes. We are beneath them. They are our predators. They feed on us, and what a feast they must have had, on me, judging by all the little red bumps on my skin, nearly neck to ankle.

I was pretty proud of myself that day too, doing yard all day, happy to be out on such a beautiful day, That was three days ago. I haven't been outside since. The out-of-doors, which I normally love, now frightens me.

I got so much accomplished that day. Because I was out all day, by the time I came in to take a shower, it was already too late. All those tiny red bumps started to appear. No area was sacred. Chiggers are not modest and have no respect for anyone who might be.

Thankfully, I have some great and understanding Facebook friends who offered advice. One woman told me to wash the bites with cold water and then to apply rubbing alcohol. She also said to use Aveeno lotion to apply afterward. I've tried this application and it does have some benefit, albeit temporary.

I was also advised a few years ago from a woman I met in a local shop, to use Fels-Naptha soap, which has long been used for treating stains in laundry. I tried that too. It does provide temporary relief for the infernal itching.

Then there is my other favorite, ChiggerX, an over-the-counter cream that for some reason provides soothing, temporary relief. Stores around here keep plenty of it in stock, thank goodness.

With all three of these remedies, at least I've been able to sleep. I keep a supply of ChiggerX on the table next to the bed, so in the middle of the night, it is easy to reach for the jar and apply to the itchy spot, without even opening my eyes. As long as my eyes don't open, getting back to sleep is easy.

Monday night, my husband applied the chigger killer poison spray throughout the front yard, so when I work up the courage, I can go back outside to keep up with the gardening chores. I absolutely hate using poison on the ground, but I hate chiggers more.

I think the worst of it is over. I'll be anxious to once again love putzing in the garden and enjoying life again.