Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Trip - Biological Hazards

I finally bought some mosquito repellant.

It's not something I've needed much before now, and I was hoping I wouldn't have to get any, because I hate having goop all over my skin. In Southern California, Off is a product that you have to work hard to find. It's usually in the camping section of the store, because the only people who need it are the ones who are going away from California and into Mosquito Territory.

In Cisco I got a couple bug bites (I'm assuming they're from mosquitoes) that gave me a bump the size of a potato (granted, a new potato) on my trapezius muscle and another one the size of a macadamia nut on my collarbone. They're still there, but two bug bites aren't enough to justify spending money on goopy stuff.

Last night, after I crawled into bed, a mosquito buzzed my ear. In a panic, I pulled the covers up so my ear was protected and only my face was exposed to danger. But then I thought I felt something brush against my eyebrow. That was too much. I sat up and turned the light back on and went on the hunt. I found the foul fiend on the wall near a corner, so I tried smashing it with a towel. I didn't see the mosquito on the towel, or on the wall, or on the carpet where it should have fallen (but it might have been hard to see on the carpet), or anywhere else. So I went back to bed with the covers still over my ear, just in case.

This morning when we were ready to leave, I noticed two mosquito bites on my arm, and I started thinking about buying repellant. Not seriously. Just thinking.

When we stopped at a Wal-Mart in Oklahoma to pick up some groceries, I dismissed the idea of repellant again. I didn't really need it, right? After we paid and were heading for the door, I noticed two new bites on my forearm, for a grand total of six bites. My mom and I looked at each other. She stayed with the groceries, and I found an employee and asked where the mosquito repellant was. Funny, but it wasn't in the camping section. In eastern Oklahoma they keep it in the garden section. And that tells me something. Which is that we are now in Mosquito Territory. And I am in danger.

I've heard that people who take lots of B vitamins tend to repel mosquitoes all by themselves. But that doesn't seem to be true, because I take an extra B-complex supplement every day (when I remember) in addition to a regular multivitamin, and the mosquitoes still bite. So, either I'm so irresistable that the mosquitoes ignore the distasteful B vitamins and bite anyway, or the report was a lie.

We're in Arkansas now, and as soon as we set up camp, I took the Off outside and sprayed it on my exposed skin, except my face. I bought the kind that promises not to feel oily or greasy, and it feels OK. But I'm still paranoid that it won't keep the mosquitoes away any better than my vitamin B does.

And to add to the paranoia, my mom and I stopped and talked to a couple camped here in the RV Park. When we were saying our goodbyes, the husband told us not to touch "those leaves." There was a patch of poison ivy growing up the side of a tree near their trailer. I'm glad he said something, or I wouldn't know. I've only seen (not touched) poison oak.

There's a lot to be said for bug-free places. A whole lot. But those places are usually dry, and sparse. They have their own stark and subtle beauty, but we're not there anymore. We're coming into a region where the beauty is lush and green, and that lushness comes with a price. I expect the reward to be well worth the cost.

Update (Friday):

I've come to the conclusion that eastern mosquito spit is different from western mosquito spit, and I don't have any immunities built up to the eastern variety. In the West, a bite gives me a welt slightly bigger around than the eraser at the end of a pencil. Here in the East, the two oldest bites on my arm are enormous. One of them has a raised, darker area bigger than a quarter, and it's surrounded by redness the size and shape of the palm of my hand with the fingers outstretched and touching each other. The whole red area itches.

I have no idea how to treat the bites, beyond applying cold compresses. For prevention, I'm applying my newly purchased Off! And I wear a really thick sweatshirt. That seems to have worked for today. No new bites.


Bekah said...

I imagine you're just irresistable to the little critters!

That's how I am - there can be one mosquito in a six mile radius. He will find me and have lunch.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

We went to a state park last week to ride our SeaDoo in the Illinois river. While the kids were still riding my wife and I took a hike to see this overlook. With the recent flooding here, the mosquitoes were indescribable. If you were walking briskly they were barely tolerable. If you stopped, you immediately had 30 or more on you. We lasted about 15 minutes and just ran out for our lives. I did not have any repellent and if we had stayed, we would have needed blood transfusions.

SkyePuppy said...


Years before we had kids, we went backpacking--inadvertently into a swampy area. The mosquitoes were the way you described it. I had repellent with DEET in it on my face, so the mosquitoes hovered about half an inch from my face, and I was afraid I was going to inhale them. Every now and then I'd suddenly stop walking forward, duck my head, and take a deep breath before they found me and started hovering again. It was a miserable camping trip that we laughed about. Much later.