We all make mistakes or forget things from time to time, and last Friday, after months of lockdown, we decided to have a rideout to see our friend Simon who was staying at a campsite near La Pobla De Segur, in the Spanish Pyrenees.
When we arrived, we took off our riding gear and spent a couple of hours chatting over lunch. Without thinking, I put my riding gear on and we set off to continue our circular route and return home.
The next day, I woke up covered in bites. The last time we rode any distance, it was still winter and early spring, so insect repellent wasn’t necessary. As this ride was a last minute decision, I had simply forgot to put some in my luggage. From the location of the bites, I think the critters had gone inside my helmet and socks when they were resting on the bike, and then the bugs had spent hours eating me as we rode home. To make things worse, when we got home, I took off my gear and dumped it in the bedroom, allowing the insects to feast on me once more whilst I slept.
Now you may be wondering why I only mention that I was bitten, and the reason is that some of these insects are drawn towards those who have more testosterone. Someone I rode with a while back was having testosterone implants, and when the implant was new, she would be bitten daily, but as the implant weakend towards the end of its effective period, even during the hight of summer, she wouldn’t get any bites. Had I not experienced this, I wouldn’t have believed it.
So, the first morning after, I feel all the lumps from the bites, and merely touching them makes them so itchy, I want to claw my skin off.
This was me on the Monday morning, with a very odd shaped head, swelling above one eye, huge amounts of swelling around the back of my skull resulting in quite limited movement of my head. My earlobes had also swollen, despite not having any bites there.
And this is me today (Wednesday), swelling around the eyes and itchy lumps on the top front of my skull. I have been on prescription antihistamines since Monday, which takes the itch away until the pills are wearing off, and the swelling is reducing elsewhere, but the effects of these bites can last upto 2 weeks.
So what can you learn from this? If you are coming to Spain during the summer months, you need to carry a couple of extra essentails. You need some good anti-mosquito/insect spray and some antihistamines. The spray is just as much for spraying the inside of your helmet, boots, socks, gloves etc as it is for spraying on yourself, and the antihistamines will help if you are bitten. The most effective over-the-counter antihisamines (in the UK) are Chlorphenamine maleate (Piriton), but they can make you sleepy. Whilst you are here, you could also use what the Spanish farmers use to prevent insect bites, a procuct called Natural Honey. It is water based, so washes off of skin and out of clothes easily, and it really works against insect bites, especially the mosca chupasangre.