Monday, September 14, 2009

A Case of No See'ems

" No, Officer I didn't see the STOP sign," to an incredulous officer. No see 'um.

"No, I didn't see an ad on Channel 99," to anybody, knowing my TV is on 24/7. No see 'um.

"No, I didn't see the camel and donkey plowing a field," my husband (H) said, as he was maneuvering our Ford LTD along a paved, very narrow road in a foreign country-Morocco, while I enjoyed the scenery. [My question had an oblique reference to an Old Testament "do not" of Jewish, law. Deut. 22:10 which actually refers to OX (not camel) and donkey] H dislikes my distracting mobile guided tour comments while he is driving. No see 'um!

But this post is really about bugs, so tiny they are not ordinarily visible with the naked eye. No
See 'Um is a term applied to an aggravating, biting, invisible insect, properly called midge, a two-winged flying insect that travels in swarms, commonly found in damp areas, like beaches. Besides being appropriately described and called No See 'Ums, other aliases for these invisible, blood sucking flies include sandflies and punkies.

The common effect of No See 'Um bites is a multiplicity of intense itching with redness, welts, and even water containing blisters. Misery upon misery!


My first encounter with this tiniest of vicious, blood sucking vampires was a few years ago in Arkansas. I escaped encounters in Texas, Maryland and Morocco [I lived in a villa on a beach].

My luck ended one humid spring day prior to 2002. In this time period I was frequently fishing and gardening. When the swarming army decided to attack me, I don't remember, but intense itching hit me as I entered City Hall to attend a public meeting.

Wondering what rare, exotic disease I had encountered, I recanted list of strange diseases I had studied as part of my pharmacy curriculum:,
leishmaniasis (sandfly), trypanosomiasis (tsetse fly), toxoplasmosis (cats, other animals), babesiosis (ticks), cryptosporidiosis (water) schistosomaisis. Or maybe, more common occurring diseases like borreliosis (Lyme disease) or ehrlichiosis. Most of these are not fatal to persons with fairly good immune systems.

How could my almighty education of every variable in the microbial and parasitic world have failed me? My confidence level in higher education was precipitously in free fall. Most all the above diseases are mostly found in tropical areas, except borreliosis and ehrlichiosis, both tick borne diseases found in US.

I am a tad paranoid! Then studying all these maladies with strange names and an alphabet of spelling, tends to boggle one's mind. I have to remind myself, as I often did in pharmacy counseling: "Don't assume everything you read will happen to you."

How we maintain a state of reasonable health and well-being in a world of never-ending, newly discovered and evolving viruses, bacteria and invaders of nearly every bodily organ or system is an amazing feature of our being as designed by the Creator of the Universe. It is called our immune system, an intricate system of checks and balances involving various bodily systems so well tuned only a few months after birth into a fully functional protector of its host. It is miraculous!

Before the session was called to order, I mentioned my miserable, unbearably intense itching to several persons in the area where I was seated. No doubt the spectacle of squirming, wiggling in my chair, trying to discretely scratch certain areas was obviously amusing, but perhaps distressing, to others.

Some persons strangely moved across the room.

I mentioned it could not be chiggers as there were no hard little "red bumps," but I had splotchy red areas spreading over my body, unfortunately in areas which could not be viewed publicly. I wondered if I had become allergic to poison ivy, something I surprisingly uproot with my bare hands.

More persons began to distance their chairs from me.

My best friend, sitting beside me, and a few city workers laughingly said, "No See 'Ums." I laughed in disbelief as I thought they were teasing me. Seeing my dismissing skepticism, they told me to look it up on the Internet, which was beginning to be the popular authoritative encyclopedia for every subject known to man.

More disillusioning was their suggestion there wasn't much relief, except some of the same remedies used for other biting insects.

So home I went to the Internet. Lo! and Behold! with much searching I found the little boogers--no where near the information I found today (151,000,000 hits). No See' Ums in 679 species range in most of North America. I was lucky to avoid them for 40+ years, insofar as I know.

I wondered how I missed this biting nemesis in my required Public Health course, Bacteriology and Biology in Pharmacy curriculum.

Leishmaniasis (sometimes called Black Fever), the vector of which is sandflies, is rare, but has occurred in US. Until I began researching No See 'Ums did I realize this nonsense terminology was an Americanized synonym for the sandfly, some species of which cause leismaniasis, a disease of which I indeed had knowledge, but no association with common terms associated with the invisible boogers.

Generally, the worst side effect of No See 'Ums is infection from intense scratching with fingernails of other instruments in a non-sterile environment.

On subsequent trips to Texas I had much fun in introducing No See 'Um midges to non-believing friends. I suppose Texans living in the Gulf Coast areas of Texas probably know about them. Most acquaintances live inland and more acquainted with ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. Further, I haven't lived in Texas in 30 years.

I do have a perverse sense of humor....

Fast forward to 2009, almost everyone I meet knows about No See 'Ums. Credit the Internet???

I'm loaded for bear now with supplies of OFF (DEET) repellent, Benadryl, Calamine Lotion, Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Hydrocortisone Cream, Hydrogen Peroxide, Alcohol, and a number of home remedies like baking soda packs and my favorite, vinegar baths.

Is everybody scratching, squirming and wiggling now??? Time to move on to some other blog???

7 comments:

Arkansas Patti said...

Aw gee Carol, I was just getting over my chigger bites and now I am itching. Phatnom itch.
Think it is funny how you were able to clear the area.
Guess we are both prepared now.

Liz said...

I don't think we have No see 'Ums in Wales! I hoep not anyway.

Sweetie Pie said...

That sounds awful! I did have to chuckle about the fact that people were scooting away from you during the meeting. :-)

I guess I lived in Arkansas for... 27 plus years, before I moved to Virginia, and I'm now thankful that I avoided No See'ems. I didn't know I should be grateful, but now, I know! Thanks for the lesson!

Amber Star said...

Ahhh....that was like a little mini refresher from when I took microbiology...one of my favorite courses, and I was good at it, too.
Thank you, NW-1. I really enjoyed that. I may still have my textbook around here somewhere.

I may have gotten into the no see ums in Florida when our son and dil lived there, but not much drama.

When I was a young girl I swear they must have hauled in chiggers to make me miserable. Those got to me big time..they loved me, and so do mosquitoes. The chiggers particularly loved me lots when I was pregnant. A trip to the clothes line was an ordeal and I would get in a bath of baking soda to try to get them to calm down enough for me to get some sleep? It has been a LONG time since then.

Silver said...

funny.. scratchy scratchy..;0

I enjoyed the read. And you really can get pretty much anything from the Net these days, isn't it?

~Silver

Pat - Arkansas said...

Loved your treatise! Fortunately, I've not encountered any No See-ems here... yet. However, if it's a moist environment they like, Mother Nature is creating that even as I type. We've had around 4" of rain since yesterday morning; almost 2.5" of which has fallen since this past midnight. Needless to say, I've not been yardening this week.

Anonymous said...

I am currently pregnant and went to Sanibel, FL for the weekend. The no-see-ums had a feast with me. Does anybody know if that can be of any danger to the baby? I am kind of concerned...and I am itching so bad!!!