Mae asked during dinner last night, “Do bugs have birthdays?”
I should have said, “No.” But, I overthought it.
Me (to myself): Since bugs are born, they could have birthdays.
Me (tentatively, to Mae): “Well, bugs don’t celebrate birthdays.”
Mae: So, they do have birthdays?
Jay: No! Bugs don’t have birthdays!
I changed the subject.
On another bug note, one sure sign that the season is changing is that Mae is starting to get sores again. She’s been having hypersensitive reactions to insect bites since about age three. Which insects, we don’t know. They especially like her face and arms. She’ll go to bed with a small bump, sometimes barely noticeable, and wake up with a dark brown spot that scabs over, even if she doesn’t touch the bump. According to one “guru” pediatric dermatologist, the reaction may appear in a location on her body different from where the nameless bug bit her and the reaction may appear at a later time. I still have trouble believing that. He was the third dermatologist we had seen. I stood in his office armed with pictures, notes, and questions. It had taken months to get the appointment, and I was prepared to hear and discuss a diagnosis and prevention plan. The “expert” spent about five minutes in the examining room and then left me and Mae with two medical students who I think I may have frightened when I (heh-hem) politely questioned the doctor. One of the students sheepishly repeated the no-see-um non-sense, and advised that we use insect repellent daily and antibiotic creams to prevent infection. He offered sympathetically that Mae would likely grow out of the hypersensitivity over time.
The second dermatologist had tested hair and skin samples. The tests were negative.
The first dermatologist had pointed to insects, too, and I didn’t believe her either. She believed that Mae was scratching insect bites and causing the sores. By the time of that visit, I’d started checking Mae’s body after bath and again in the morning. Mae would sometimes be unaware of the brown spots until I pointed them out to her. She wasn’t complaining of itching or pain. Some of the spots were as big as dimes and they would begin with a red ring around them. By the end of the day, the brown spot would have sunken in a little and the skin would begin to break. I argued with Ms. Dr. that “insect bite” didn’t make sense if you can’t see the bite and there is no itching. Still, for lack of any other answers, Hubby and I looked and treated for insects, to no avail. I tried different detergents, new bedding, disinfectants, blah blah. There were sores at home and while states away, and while at two different childcare locations; it didn’t make a difference.
It was actually an allergist who convinced me that it was a hypersensitivity problem. Ultimately, his science may not have been any different from that of the dermatologists, but he was different. He and I sat down across from each other at a table, he with a pen and pad and I with my pictures and log. He asked questions and took notes. He looked at my pictures. He told me about his graduate work on insect bites, and he showed a genuine interest in Mae. He was intrigued by the unusually dark pigmentation of the lesions, and gave recommendations for evening her skin tone and threw in some advice on treating dry skin.
I try to use insect repellent consistently. I try to put Benadryl cream or spray on any bump as soon as I see it on her, and I think that has stopped some reactions. The sores have become fewer in number and smaller. I’m hopeful that one day she will completely outgrow the problem.
This is one thing I hate about this time of year. I hate not being about to identify the bugs and kill them, or at least avoid them. I hate having to put Band-aids on Mae’s face. I hate feeling helpless about anything, especially when it comes to my kids. I worry about the long-term impact on her skin tone and complexion. Puberty will present its own complexion challenges, and I would be happy for her to at least go into it with a clear and even complexion. I know that inner beauty is more important blah blah, and I’m not a vain person. A fair start on puberty is not too much to ask.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep the insect repellent and Benadryl close at hand and continue to invest in family size jars of cocoa butter.