Bugged by flies?
Well, for Dr Matt Piccaver, it is a case of many times bitten by the insects that bug summer
Dr Matt on the winged perils of summer
THE EDITOR of this fine publication sent me a list of topics he wanted covered. This isn’t one of them. [Ed’s note: you’re sacked]
There are a lot of problems that I get asked about. As a GP I’m expected to know something about everything. I come in handy for general knowledge quizzes, unless it’s about sport. I’m terrible at sport. I once went to a Christmas quiz at the local church hall with the in-laws. I expected questions on Christmassy-themed popular knowledge. Christmas number ones, festive traditions, Boxing Day sporting fixtures, that sort of thing.
Not one question came up I could answer. Anyway, I digress. I wanted to write about something close to my heart, and my dermis; insect bites. I’ve seen countless people over the past few months with insect bites. Loads of people. several a day. Especially with the combination of warm sunny spells and intermittent rain storms.
I am an all-you-can-eat buffet for winged menaces. I’m still covered in the scars from Menorca in 2015. I had so many bites on me you could read me like braille, big, itchy red circles, the stigmata of some winged expletive. Every evening would see me become the main course for a plethora of biting insects. I’d hear the high pitched whine of the mosquito and jump into action, flailing in the vague direction of the assailant, flip-flop in hand like some footwear-brandishing ninja. I have no idea what people must have thought.
Insect bites can be a problem for some of us. I react more as the years go by. A painless bite, a slight itch, then within a day or two a large red circle. Some of us develop infected insect bites and we may develop a fever and a spreading infection in the skin called cellulitis.
The UK is malaria-free, and living as I do, on the edge of the Fens, I’m rather glad about that. If I went to a malarial country, there’s a good chance I might not make it back. For those travelling to malarial countries, it’s important to get in touch with your GP or local travel clinic in good time. Some immunisation schedules need a lot of time and it is worth knowing your exact destinations so your risk of malaria can be assessed and medication prescribed.
There’s an insect bite that we all need to be careful of and that’s a tick bite. When I used to work in Thetford we worried an awful lot about potential Lyme disease, but in reality I’ve only seen it a few times over the past decade.
It is caused by a bacterial infection carried by ticks. They can bite and exude their content into the unsuspecting victim.
It can take up to a month for symptoms to develop and they can include a red rash at the site of the bite and flulike symptoms. The rash may take on the appearance of a target or bull’s-eye, and is called erythema migrans.
If you’ve been to an area with known ticks and develop a rash that matches that description, it is worth seeking prompt medical attention.
Most insect bites are no big deal; a little bump and slight itch. But for some of us insect bites can cause misery. The best treatment is avoidance, particularly not going out in the evenings when mosquitoes are at their most active, or keeping arms and legs covered when yomping around the countryside.
I’m spending the summer on my guard. If you see someone whirling like a dervish with a flipflop in hand, you’ll know who it is.
Until next time.
I am an all-youcan-eat buffet for winged menaces