© 2011 Aaron Atkinson

The Rash-inal Solution

They don’t live in Canada. They hardly live in Iowa. They’re only active in the heat of the summer. And on account of the fear, torment and suffering that they induce, they are best described as being the spawn of satan.

They are chiggers.

They are teeny-tiny and nearly invisible. They climb onto an unknowing host and they painlessly bite the thin skin of ankles, legs, thighs and armpits. Their saliva dissolves skin cells which are then slurped up through a tiny straw-like mouthpiece. A day later, the host’s immune system responds to the attack by hardening the skin around the affected area. This process creates a small red welt that itches like an blazing-hot, itching needle. I liken the sensation to be very similar to having about a dozen mosquito bites stacked neatly one atop the other. After about ten days, the host’s body realizes that the attack is over, and the red welts begin to disappear. But I wouldn’t wish the suffering experienced during those ten days on my worst enemy.

I tell you all of these fascinating chigger facts from memory, having done no research as I write this. How have I come to know so much about them, you ask? Well, to my dismay I’ve become a bit of an expert on account of the research I’ve done in the past, as I pick them up about three times each summer, most commonly after fishing from shore.

One or two bites at a time are annoying, but endurable. But one Saturday about three years ago I went fishing in a pond just West of Topeka. The fishing was excellent. Turns out, so were the conditions for chiggers. By the time I woke up on Monday morning I had no fewer than 250 bites that started at my ankles and stopped at my shoulders. I was covered. They say that a burn victim’s palm corresponds to the size of about 1% of the total surface area of the body. By that measurement I was about 20% covered in a sprawling chigger-bite induced rash and the intense, burning itch was more unbearable than I could accurately portray to you now.

I made a decision that miserable week to avoid such a situation in the future at all costs, and as such, I came up with four solutions for prevention. The first was rapidly discounted as it involved selling my home and moving immediately back to Canada where the weather is too cold to host the little devils. The second, third and fourth are far more suitable and were thus enacted. One: I never venture into grass that’s not my own yard without first soaking my legs in bug juice. Two: Whenever I return from a romp in the summertime grass, I get in the shower and before I turn the water on I douse my lower half with rubbing alcohol. The fumes and cooling sensation from instant evaporation are too much for the buggers and they seem to give up the ghost before they have a chance to bite. Three: In an effort to avoid fishing from chigger infested shoreline grass, I bought my canoe.

And I’ve been chigger free ever since.

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