Health · Home life · Notes from West London

Insect bites (August 2020 update)

This time last year, while on holiday in Spain, I was bitten repeatedly by insects. It prompted this piece (Holiday notes: sun, sea, sand, and insect bites) which includes some photos showing the after-effects of insect bites on my skin. It came with a warning, in case you are squeamish about such things.

I have, unexpectedly, been ravaged by insect bites again this week here in West London.  There is photographic evidence at the end of this piece, so if you are squeamish do not scroll beyond the final paragraph.

The latest bout of insect damage was unexpected because it happened at a place and an hour where I had previously spent time without any ill-effects, a space occupied by football and rugby pitches which is empty for much of the day. My daughter has been running and training there for the last month or two, usually with her regular training partner, whose family have an allotment nearby. My wife and daughter have been there for several early starts, when the place is deserted and before the weather gets too hot. We are in the middle of a heatwave here in the UK, the first time since 1961 that there have been temperatures in excess of 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit) for six consecutive days.

Earlier this month my daughter and I played football on one of those unoccupied rugby pitches for an hour either side of midday. My main concerns were getting sunburnt or picking up an injury in my current state of unfitness. The thought of insect bites didn’t cross my mind, and we returned home for lunch unscathed. Last week the four of us spent an hour picking blackberries at the same place in the last hour of daylight. Again, give or take the odd scratch from some rather determined thorns, we all returned with no harm done.

A couple of evenings ago the four of us returned to the same location for an hour before dusk. My daughter did some strengthening exercises, and she and my wife had a walk to measure out the distance of a training route for the following morning. (There’s an App for that.) My son and I played a bit of tennis, knocking about on some parched and uneven ground. There were a few insects buzzing around, unlike the previous week, and unlike early mornings and afternoons. They feasted on my, and my son’s, exposed skin. They left my wife and daughter alone. I shouldn’t have worn shorts.

You have probably heard the expression attributed (possibly erroneously) to Einstein, along these lines: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. It occurred to me after this latest mishap, but getting bitten on two separate occasions separated by a whole year probably does not count as doing the same thing over and over again”. I generally do not put myself at risk of insect bites. Last summer’s attack, and this week’s, are isolated examples of bugs feasting on my blood in extreme heat. Most years I do not have to use insect-repellent but I have dug it out again, for me and my son, and hope that it keeps the pests at bay. For some reason, the effect of this year’s UK-based blood-suckers is even more extreme than their Spanish counterparts last year. Here are the photos, but as mentioned before, turn away now if you want to avoid seeing them.

Monster-sized insect bite photo (look away if you’re squeamish)

Summer 2020: Here are two of this summer’s crop of insect bites, both larger than a UK 2p piece (2p and 1p coins shown for comparison), from my right calf.



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