Summer Sizzler

imageWe returned to Cedar Hill State Park, after nearly a yearlong absence, to enjoy a lakeside site on the Coyote Crossing camping loop. The mid-June temps soared into the upper 90s, prompting heat advisories and indoor activities.

The sites in this loop are relatively shallow, so most occupants were tent campers. We noticed several tents with air-conditioners, which is a relatively new phenomenon. Airstream first offered dry-ice air-conditioning in 1936, so it’s not entirely unusual that our 2015 Flying Cloud would have air-conditioning as a standard feature. But a portable air-conditioner in a tent? That seems more appropriate for a wedding venue than a campsite.

Upon checking in we were warned about a) ants and b) chiggers. We thought we had adequate protection both in terms of clothing and chemicals. But we weren’t counting on a) ants desiring the air-conditioned comfort of the Airstream and b) the dogs carrying chiggers into the cabin.

Let’s discuss chiggers for a moment. When Jon was a Boy Scout, he endured a lot of chigger bites (and, occasionally, ticks) while camping in the woods. His beloved grandmother explained that chiggers deposit eggs under the skin, and that was the cause of a chigger bite’s incessant itchiness. Her remedy: Paint the bite with nail polish, because the chigger gestating under the skin will be deprived of oxygen and die.

The Revlon Remedy may have had a placebo effect, but no actual chiggers were ever harmed in the process.

You see, chiggers are tiny mites. So tiny, in fact, that they’re nearly impossible to see, especially if you’re like us and you require reading glasses to see 14-point type. They don’t actually deposit alien arachnid creatures beneath the skin. Nor do they bite us or feed on our blood. Rather, they use their mouths to drill tiny holes into our skin. Then they secrete an enzyme that breaks down our skin cells from the inside, slurping up the mixture through a tube formed by the hardened skill cells. In other words, they’re not looking for a nest. They’re looking for a protein shake.

As you might imagine, humans don’t take kindly to all this drilling and parasitic digestion. We develop itchy, bright-red pimple-like bumps or hives or a generalized skin rash in the areas where the mites attach, even up to 24 to 48 hours after exposure. The best thing to do after exposure: Strip down and take a shower. Because chiggers will migrate along your limbs until they reach some constriction, such as the elastic band at the waistline, or the buttline, of your tighty whities. If your underwear is a little loose at the leg, you might have the unfortunate experience of a chigger getting into the red zone, to borrow a football phrase. And there’s no goal line defense. It WILL score. If there is someplace you don’t want chiggers to explore, consider your underwear.

The good news is that these critters aren’t known to carry disease. They’re mostly an annoyance. Their bites can be itchy and unsightly, but you can always apply an ocean of Calamine lotion. And stop allowing the dogs onto the bed.