Itching impossible…Searching for relief!…After all, it’s Africa!…

Our resident monitor lizard makes an appearance from time to time.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Big Daddy in the bush.

It started a few weeks after we arrived in Marloth Park, the itching on my forearms. At first, based on the fact I suffer from hay fever and asthma on occasion and am highly allergic to grasses, we assumed it was due to my arms frequently reaching into the pellet bin which is made from grass and vegetation.

An evening view of the Crocodile River from the veranda at Ngwenya Lodge and Restaurant.
For a week or so, Tom did all the reaching into the container to see if my situation improved. When it didn’t I continued to reach into the bin for pellets, not observing any difference whatsoever in doing so.
From there, the itching and red spots were easy to attribute to mosquito bites. I reloaded the Tabard repellent cream several times a day, aware that I was using DEET, the only product I found to work here in the bush. I’d already tried several non-DEET products with no success.
A waterbuck and Egyptian geese.

Imagine my dismay when after three good applications a day, I was still covered in bites, itching out of my mind, especially at night. I tried wearing long sleeve shirts even in the hot weather which didn’t provide much added protection. But as summer approaches the idea of wearing long sleeve shirts in 40C (102F) weather doesn’t hold much appeal.

In the past few months, I noticed that my neck and chest started itching like crazy whenever I went to bed within minutes. This reminded me of the same scenario I experienced when we stayed at the hotel in Minneapolis in June 2017 while visiting family for six weeks, assuming it was due to the harsh laundry soap.  They started doing our bedding in Dreft gentle laundry soap to no avail.
Kudus in the garden.
Then, at the hotel in Buenos Aires last December, I suffered the same lot, this time thinking it was due to the mattress, not the laundry soap. After considerable research, I came to the conclusion that I’m allergic to bed dust mites, common among allergy sufferers.  
The hotel changed the old mattress to a new mattress, which made all the difference in the world. At that point, I was convinced it was bed dust mites. All beds have dust mites.  Information on this may be found here.  
Elephants and storks.
Allergy-prone individuals and the elderly (yuck, I dislike being in this category) tend to react to the dust mites while others may not. I hesitated to mention this to Louise after they’ve already done so much for us. So I started with requesting the bed and bedding be sprayed weekly with a safe non-toxic product intended for dust mites.
I so much wanted this to work. Alas, weeks later, the itching continued to get worse. I was at a loss. We needed a new mattress. After thoroughly spraying the bedroom after48 hours of mentioning this to Louise, the boys installed the new mattress with all new bedding and pillows. 
An elephant and hippos.
Since dust mite bites can itch for weeks, I didn’t expect total relief for some time. But immediately, I noticed the redness and itching on my chest stopped entirely which was a huge relief.
However, I continued to notice more and more bites on my body even under my clothing. Every moment of every day, I have been itching like crazy. When we were preparing the big Thanksgiving meal in the horrible heat, the itching was even more intense.  
This mom appears very lean after giving birth to this young calf.
My arms have been covered in red inflamed spots. So, in part, it was the bed dust mites but something else has been going on. Saturday evening during our Thanksgiving meal, Honorary Rangers and experts in invasive alien plants, insects, and animal species, Ushie and Evan sat to my right.  
On a whim, I asked if they knew what these red pus-like welts on my arms may be. They both replied simultaneously…pepper ticks. They were certain in their assessment.
Hippos basking in the sun at dusk at the Crocodile River in Kruger National Park.
Yesterday, Sunday, I spent hours researching pepper ticks for which there is very little information on these tiny, unseen to the naked eye, ticks that live in the bush, beds, furniture, clothing and will literally crawl up a pant leg to gain access to meaty flesh where they’ll attach themselves, leaving toxic larvae behind. This is what has been itching so badly.
The thought of larvae feeding off of my flesh makes me cringe. There were only a few articles on pepper ticks but this one caught my eye.  This morning as soon as we were up we headed to Daisy’s Den here in Marloth Park to make two purchases; one a tiny tin of Zambuk, a natural translucent paste, and a spray bottle of No-Tick Body Spray, safe for body and clothing (doesn’t contain DEET which doesn’t work against ticks).
A female lion we spotted from Marloth Park’s fence.
We’ll see how it goes. Tonight will be the big test when last night I was awake itching most of the night. At 3:00 am I was in the living room using an ice pack to get some relief.
This is Africa. We’re living in the bush. And with it comes some challenges and inconveniences, some of which are physically uncomfortable. Tom is not affected by any of this, nor does he get many mosquito bites. He uses repellent only at dusk which keeps him bite-free.
We were thrilled to see the huge herd of cape buffalos.
I’ll layer the mosquito repellent, the Zambuk salve, the anti-tick body, and clothing spray in the future. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy day!

Photo from one year ago today, November 19, 2017:

Tom captured this Sierra Birdbum in Costa Rica after being stunned from hitting the window, dropping to the top landing of the steps leading to the ground level. He called out to me to come to see her which I did, but he stayed in place, taking photos of her eventual recovery. For more photos, please click here.

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