I’m that person who typically ushers creepy crawlers and wayward fliers gently back outside. The major exceptions being wasps/hornets and some spiders. I keep a clean home and there isn’t much in the way of clutter. But, we all know how it is with bugs… they always find a way.
One night recently, right before I fell asleep, I noticed an itchy raised spot on my upper back. Having hives most nights, I just thought it was an abnormally raised jerk of a hive. A few quick itches in that sneaky around the spot but not quite on it technique, and I was off to the Land of Nod. I had an early morning and basically ran out the door immediately after waking up and tossing on some clothes.
About an hour later, I was feeling under the weather. My stomach was a mess. My joints ached and I had the pulsing notes of an aggressive migraine starting. I was also itchy. Super itchy. Getting home, I peeled off my clothes and took a long look in the mirror. There were bites all over my body. The largest ones looked like welts and they were on my back. About 7 of them running from between my scapula across to my rib cage and down to my lower back. An additional smattering of smaller bites were on both arms and one or two made it down to my ankles. Then, I looked at the inside of my sore wrist. A large bite with an expanding red ring around it was staring back.
The wrist bite was hot to the touch. At the center, I could see it was beginning to form a pustule. After putting in a call to my doctor, I immediately took some antihistamines and jumped in the shower. A cool rinse with mild soap was only temporarily soothing. I drew a faint line around the red rings (I found another one on my back) to make sure they weren’t spreading. We all know it isn’t helpful to be anxious about a new medical problem, but I was ineffectively practicing calming techniques as my brain ran through the possibilities of what was happening.
My doctor was quick to respond. Luckily, I live in a state with few venomous spider species. But, that didn’t seem to matter to my always-on hyper drive immune system. I already know that I have a pretty heavy response to bug bites. For instance, mosquitos love me and leave large kisses. In this case, whichever spiders chomped on me, caused the most aggressive histamine reaction and I was seeing the painful results. I was prescribed strong antihistamines, cortisone creams, NSAIDS, rest, and all the water that I could manage.
Keeping an eye on the ugliest bites, I used a warm compress to try and slowly extract toxins from the growing sores. Napping in-between meds, heaps of water and applications of topical gel, my red rings stopped spreading. Still itchy, but with less full body symptoms, that night was pretty miserable. I made sure to wrap the easily accessible bites so that I wouldn’t scratch them absentmindedly. Sleep came through drugs, alone.
Thankfully, the next day, things started to calm down. The bites were still prominent and itchy, but only the ones with sores were painful. My aches and nausea had also ceased. I watched the welts slowly shrink over the week. The bites that had sores, began to heal up. Freak’n spiders, man! I still don’t know what type got me. It could have been a poisonous one I fought off well or a mild chomper my body just couldn’t handle. No bodies of the perpetrators were ever found.
Those of you with Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome know that in addition to positive(?) physical traits, like our velvet skin and party trick joints, one of the not-so-great symptoms is scarring. Anything from a cat scratch to a splinter can cause a permanent mark on the skin. Thanks to a lack of collagen, we show reminders of every incident our skin experiences.
It’s a tiny scar this time. A small memory on my wrist that nudges me to shake out my clothes before I put them on and peek under my bed sheets before jumping in.