Too Many Itches To Scratch

Some years ago, I wrote about being diagnosed with the incurable skin condition, Pityriasis Rosea.

The cause is unknown, though some experts believe it is the legacy of a previous viral condition. It does go away after a while, but then it comes back when you least expect it.

In my case, I am unlucky. It is usually always present somewhere on my body, mostly on the front of my chest, or along the line of the spine in my back. It can become red and raised, and is always terribly itchy. For years now, I have taken an antihistamine tablet at least once a day, sometimes twice. That helps to control the worst of it, as well as liberal application of steroidal creams to the affected areas.

Regular readers will also know of my susceptibility to insect bites, especially mosquitioes and horseflies. I am unusually attractive to any biting insects, and spend the summer months having to use the strongest repellent sprays available, as well as wearing an impregnated wrist band that deters insects.

The sudden rise in temperatures has hit me on both levels this week. The rash has returned on my chest and back, and has also started to appear around my ankles and feet. Walking Ollie has resulted in numerous bites and stings, especially as it has been far too warm to even think about not wearing lightweight shirts and shorts.

So I have woken up this morning with an itch raging across my back and chest. Also on both ankles, and the instep of one foot. Add to that three large itchy mosqito bites on one arm, and I am more than a little agitated. The tablets and creams do not seem to be able to cope with this double-dose of irritation coursing through my body, and I am sitting typing this trying not to rub my back against a wall as I rake my chest with the sharpest fingernail I can find.

I definitely have far too many itches to scratch today.

Pain Threshold

On an unusually hot and sunny afternoon last week, I was chatting to a fellow dog-walker when I felt an incredibly sharp pain at the back of my head. It was best described as being hit by an air-rifle pellet, or being stabbed by someone using a spike of some kind. I yelled loudly, and jumped forward, quickly turning to see if someone was behind me. The man I was talking to pointed to the space above my head, and declared, “It’s a horsefly”. I have had horsefly bites on my legs in the past, and they can be painful. But this one on my head was much worse, and was throbbing immediately.

I carried on with my walk, and by the time I got over the river onto Hoe Rough, the swelling was the size of an egg, and pulsing painfully. As I type this, I can still feel the remains of that hard lump above my right ear.

Yesterday afternoon, I was stepping into the bath, prior to getting ready to take Ollie out. As I did so, I caught the inside of my left leg on the edge of the bath. It was little more than a glancing blow, hardly even a ‘knock’. Yet it made me shout in pain so loudly, Ollie’s head appeared, to see what was happening. It was really painful, and by the time I was out of the bath and getting dried, there was a bruise appearing, the size of a coin.

I have been lucky so far in life. I have not had to have any major surgery, and have never broken an arm, leg, or even an ankle. There have been my fair share of falls, bumps, and cuts over the years, and I did break four fingers on my left hand in a very bad car accident when I was 32. But whatever injury I ever had, I never thought too much about it, and never once made a fuss.

So how is it that I suddenly have zero pain threshold for things like a small impact on my leg, or the bite of an insect? What changed along the way? I’m sure it cannot just be age, as I know older people who have bravely endured surgery or broken limbs quite recently. Is it my perception of pain that has altered, or can a body actually change how it registers levels of pain?

Whatever the reason, I don’t like it.

Officially irresistible

It’s official. I am irresistible. At least to any form of biting insect, stinging plant, irritating leaf or creeper. In fact, as far as most of nature is concerned, I am the main course of choice, as well as the starter, and a tasty dessert too.

One of the joys of better weather is being able to shed clothing. To wander freely in shorts, not having to wear socks, discarding heavy coats and warm coverings. The downside to this is having to be aware of all the things that want to bite you, sting you, and otherwise cause discomfort and irritation. So I plaster the exposed areas with repellent, adding the much-lauded Avon ‘Skin so Soft’ for good measure. I try to wear long-sleeved shorts or tops to escape the ravages on my arms, and rarely leave the house unprepared.

But they are never fooled or deterred by these careful preparations. These tiny insects and delicate plant filaments will seek out any chink in my armour, and punish me accordingly. To them, I am fair game. Something to be feasted upon, stung as a warning, or even just for fun. Because they can.
If I didn’t know better, I would think that all these minute forces of nature gather together for a briefing. They check their watches, almost 2 pm. He will be out soon. They wait to see me lumbering along my usual route, their delicate senses seeking out any uncovered or unprotected spot. Then they attack, all forces combined.

Perhaps they have become inured to my sprays and potions. Maybe they have evolved to be able to disregard them completely. Whatever the reason, my walks are becoming a feat of endurance of a different kind. No longer slogging through mud, encumbered by heavy boots. Instead, I have to try to avoid the obvious places where insects dwell; shady spots, under trees, close to the riverbank. This makes it almost impossible for me, as all of my walks contain such hazards. As the grasses and plants grow during the season, I can feel their eager tendrils reaching up beyond the limit of my shorts, in search of exposed flesh wherever it can be found.

For me, the consequences of my dog-walking ritual are legs covered in bites and itchy rashes. I have bites next to other bites, painful weals on my fingers, and I have to re-cover myself in creams and potions to avoid an evening of scratching.

But I would take it over rain, any day.

My bubble-wrap head

Two days ago, I noticed something itchy at the back of my head. I felt the area, and found two spots. They felt a lot like insect bites, raised and hot, and itchy as anything. If it had been high summer, I would have suspected a flying insect, but it was late October. Although it has been quite warm lately, I haven’t noticed the return of any midges, mosquitoes, or horse-flies. My on-off rash returned to my legs recently, fortunately not as severe as it has been in the past. I thought that the head problem might be related to that, but it is very different, both in appearance, and sensation.

By the time I woke up this morning, a crop of new arrivals had joined the original two spots/bites. I moved my fingers around my head, counting tentatively. Eight more, so now ten in total. I was sure that I could discount insect bites. It was unlikely to be anything inhabiting the bed or bedroom either, as Julie was not suffering anything similar. But as I sat in front of the computer today, I had to bite my lip, and almost sit on my hands, in an effort to stop scratching my scalp.

After I got ready to take Ollie out, it seemed to have eased a little. However, two hours out walking in bright sunshine made me feel very warm, and that increase in body heat appeared to have livened these lumps into a renewed frenzy of itchiness. By the time I got home, and began to prepare the evening meal, I could no longer resist the desire to scratch, and attacked my head with gusto. This raised the lumps of course, and did little good. They now resembled bubble-wrap, as I was able to squash them down, and feel them return into shape. However, unlike bubble-wrap, they did not pop, and cease to exist.

Once dinner was over, and I felt much cooler, the itching subsided. So, I could confirm that it was worse when I felt too warm, and seemed to be exacerbated by heat. I tried some general purpose cream, but that seems to have made no difference, either way. If it gets any worse, or fails to disappear, I fear that I may well have to consult my doctor, though it hardly seems important enough to warrant that.

I enjoy bubble-wrap as much as the next person. Like most of us, I get great satisfaction from popping the bubbles, until the sheet is flat.
I just don’t want it on my head.

Nature 1, Man 0

The last two days have been bright, with no rain. Weather conducive to dog-walking, and enjoying the countryside.  Yesterday, I accompanied a dog-walking friend, and her black Labrador, and we took a longer walk through some local forested areas. Perhaps I should call them woodland areas, to be more accurate. Forest implies something vast, somewhere that you could get lost, and this is not the case with the local woods.

Ollie was on good form, as he enjoys the company of another dog, and he had somewhere new to sniff around. At one stage, he even discovered the carcass of a dead baby deer, something he was very excited about. I was able to chat to my friend, and to thank her for showing me this place, which was previously unknown to me, and well worth a return visit. We both remarked at the brightness of the low winter sun (see previous post) , and how it made it difficult to see, when walking towards the late afternoon sunset.

I later discovered, that it had made me fail to see clouds of gnats and midges, enjoying the damp conditions under the trees, as well as an unexpected feast on my head. The effect of countless, tiny bites on my scalp, resulted in the impression that bubble wrap had been implanted under the skin overnight. If this joins up with the spots that have appeared on my face (see previous post), I fear that I may appear to have Leprosy, and will have to don a muslin hood, and wear a loud bell around my neck.

Isn’t nature wonderful?