Summer is wonderful, right? Sunshine. Days at the lake or the beach; afternoons on the golf course or at the ballpark; cookouts and picnics; the opportunities go on and on.
Blah blah baloney.
Here’s what summer is really all about. Heat and humidity. Sweltering afternoons and muggy evenings, with a possible thunderstorm or two. Astronomically high electric bills. Mosquitos. Yard work that never seems to end. The only thing that keeps you going is the anticipation of fall and sweet, sweet relief.
Last but not least, there are those nasty chiggers. Here’s all you need to know about them to understand why they help to make summer the worst time of the year:
- They’re the juvenile form of a type of mite.
- They inject digestive enzymes into human skin and feed on decomposed tissue.
- They cause pronounced itching.
- Their bites look like tiny red blisters but — if you’re lucky — just a horrible red rash.
- They belong to the same family as spiders and ticks.
- They can’t be seen by the naked eye, so you’ll never see them coming.
Since they can’t be seen without using a microscope, you need to know their modus operandi: they latch onto your clothing, crawl around until they find a patch of skin, use their sharp jaw-like claws to make tiny holes and then inject saliva that turns your cells into mush. That’s right: according to WebMD, your body literally becomes mush.
As I write this I am covered from neck to toe in chigger bites. It would take more than a couple of Sharpies to ‘connect the dots’ on all of them. When one particular spot itches, the instant I begin scratching it the itch moves to another spot. It’s like playing a game of Whack-a-Mole controlled by a sadistic chief chigger stationed in the Chigger Control Center that, by the looks of things, is located on a part of my body most of you probably will never see.
Now that I have your attention, I imagine you’re wondering what to do if you happen to be assaulted by this invisible army. Here’s what I did:
- Washed my clothing, sheets and towels in a cauldron of boiling water, hot enough to remove a couple layers of human skin.
- Covered my entire body with an ointment that (allegedly) tempers itching. If you try this at home, you are no doubt a trusting soul like me.
- Got a steroid injection at an urgent care center. (Warning: the hypodermic needle is roughly the size of a harpoon.)
- Asked a priest to perform an exorcism. (Be patient; this may take some time because the priest will need to get permission from a bishop. I’m still waiting, and it’s been more than a week.)
At this point, I have absolutely no idea why an entire colony of chiggers wanted to turn me to mush.
This whole nightmare has me scratching my head, which is sort of ironic because — at the moment — it’s the only part of my body that doesn’t actually itch.
Scott Ludwig lives, runs and writes in Senoia. His latest book, “Southern Charm” is a collection of his first 101 columns for The Newnan Times-Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .