Invasion of biting insects…Ouch!

Yesterday afternoon, while chopping and dicing for dinner, I felt two sharp stings only seconds apart on each of my calves.  Startled by the sharp pain, my eyes darted around the kitchen for the nasty culprit(s), dishtowel in hand, ready to snap the life out of the perpetrator. 

Actually, I’ve become quite good at this task since I’ve spent more time in the kitchen with a towel in hand than looking for a fly swatter which is rarely handy at the opportune moment.

With the temperature in the low 90’s with humidity to match, it was impossible to keep the kitchen window shut, hoping for the little breezes that swoop off of the mountains periodically.

Most often having the kitchen window open attracts bees and typical houseflies.  Conscientious about keeping the kitchen clean and free of food debris, we’ve managed to keep the indoor flying insect population at bay.

Not yesterday.  It must have been the barometric pressure.  The horseflies were on a mission to visit me and dine. For some odd reason they seem to be attracted to me, not Tom, who seldom is bitten by anything, other than the relentless no-see-ums in Belize and the mosquitoes in Minnesota, jokingly referred to as the State Bird, when in fact the loon is the State Bird.

Dining in the kitchen last night was not fun, although we had a delicious meal of homemade mozzarella cheese stuffed Italian meatballs, topped with savory marinara sauce with sautéed mushrooms, locally made Parmesano/Reggiano cheeses, a side of grilled eggplant, seasoned with herbs from our own garden and of course, our favorite giant bowl of coleslaw. The locally grown horseflies were in Heaven with the smells wafting through the air.

Not one to wear perfume and scented products (one learns this living in Minnesota) it must be my personal scent that flying and biting insects find appealing. I found this recent article that unfortunately, didn’t provide me with a clue as to why biting insects bite me.  It’s always the same old, same old, as I sit here on the veranda with flies buzzing my head as I write this, Tom within four feet of me, safe from the wrath.

Still waiting to hear back from Budget Car Rental about swapping out our “sold” rental car, having canceled our road trip plans, we decided we’d shop for groceries today. With careful meal planning every two weeks, we found ourselves running low on a number of staples. 

Our plan was to enjoy our morning coffee with a light breakfast with a plan to head down the mountains to our favorite market in Pescia, Esselunga, almost 30 minutes away. 

Routinely checking our email during coffee time, I sat at the kitchen table, showered and dressed for the day, thoroughly savoring every swallow of fine Italian coffee, topped off with equally fine real cream.

Aware of the possibility that last night’s horseflies may still be in the vicinity along with a few bees that had joined in the festivities, my trusty white dishtowel was on my lap ready to go into action.  Distracted by a noteworthy article that popped up in my Facebook account, I didn’t notice when a flying thing landed on my towel close to my right hand. (I later noticed a smidgen of red sauce on the towel from last night that most likely attracted the creature.

Ouch!  Something bit me so hard on the pad of my palm that I literally jumped out of the kitchen chair, swatting wildly with the towel. Immediately, my hand began to swell. Our concern; not the pain, the swelling, or the redness, but was it a wasp or hornet sting that, with the intensity of the pain, set us on a path of response?

Both Tom and I are dangerously allergic to bees (used as a catchall phrase for certain flying stinging things). Last time either of us had been stung, we ended us in an emergency room, receiving Epinephrine and Cortisone injections, antihistamines, and ice packs for days.

Based on the intensity of the sting, I had no alternative but to assume it was a bee sting and react accordingly.  Of course, as we’ve mentioned before, we have several EpiPen in our medical kit in the event of such an occurrence.

Overreacting is pointless but a solid plan in place that we had previously rehearsed immediately went into action. Here were the steps we took:

1.  Immediately, I put a Benedryl tablet under my tongue for rapid absorption.
2.  Grabbed the EpiPen, reread the instructions, and placed it in my jeans pocket in the provided case. Is breathing compromised?  If so, use the EpiPen before completing the following.
3.  Used a credit card to wipe off any excess venom and stinger.
4.  Washed my hand in warm soapy water,
5.  Checked the bathroom mirror for any redness around my throat, chest, and groin area, all of which, for both Tom and I, were the bodily areas to react within minutes, besides the site of the sting.
5.  Made an icepack, promptly placing it on the affected area of my hand.
6.  Put on shoes, grab wallet and ID, more Benedryl, EpiPen, ice pack, and towel and head out the door.

Please keep in mind, the above is what we will do. Please consult your physician for instructions appropriate for you and your family members. 

Our plan was simple.  We’d drive toward Pescia where the grocery store is located along with the closest hospital to Boveglio. Normally, if there is a reaction to a bee sting it is within minutes, not hours.  It would take us a half hour to arrive at the hospital. 

With the actual use of the EpiPen, it is highly recommended that the patient immediately receive medical care.  This is a life-threatening occurrence for many people such as us, with proper medical care subsequent to the injection vital to ensure against further possible consequences. 

If there was no swelling of my throat, no systemic rash, and no massive swelling at the site of the sting, most likely it wasn’t a bee sting but a horsefly.  As we traveled down the mountain with no further reaction, Tom driving quickly but safely on the multitude of hairpin turns, I became convinced that it wasn’t a bee sting.

By the time we drove into the Esselunga grocery store parking lot, one euro was in my hand to pay for our grocery cart, my smartphone was in the other hand with our grocery store app loaded with two week’s of grocery items, and I was feeling fine.  We’d made it in 27 minutes, a good trial run.

Although a little sleepy from the Benedryl, I was ready to shop, leaving Tom in the car to read a book on his smartphone while he’d wait for an hour and fifteen minutes to come to find me. With not a word in English in the entire store, my former one hour shopping time had turned into almost two when we came to Tuscany.

In the past, getting a horsefly bite would result in a badly swollen and inflamed appendage or body part. Not the case today.  Although the now three bites (the two calf bites and the hand bite) are itching like crazy, I’m happy as a clam to having been spared.

As I write this now, I’ve moved inside to our bedroom, the totally bug-free zone where we never open the windows, use a floor stand fan and keep the bedroom door shut around the clock.  Usually, we feel fairly “safe” on the veranda with no flowers or plants nearby but today, after they were “buzzing” around my head, I’d had enough and came indoors.

Soon, back to the kitchen to make dinner, clean dishtowel in hand, I’m ready to snap those flies into oblivion to be able to enjoy another blissful evening of fine food, playing a little Gin, watching a favorite show, and idle chatter with my hubby.

In any case, it was good practice. I doubt Africa will be a bug-free zone! After digging through my suitcase, I found my Permethrin anti-insect long khaki pants, deciding to wear them during dinner. Let’s see how that works!