25 Jul

How I Almost Got Killed by an Insect

Here’s the thing: this is Wisconsin. We don’t have black widows or brown recluse spiders. No scorpions. No fang-toothed jellyfish. Mosquitos are a pain in the rear, but when it comes to little things that bite you, this is a pretty good place to be.

I guess various bees and hornets can pack a wallop, especially for those of us who might be allergic to them. But it’s pretty rare that the bee/wasp types make it into your home undetected.

So I’m baffled about what it is that bit me last Friday night. But something did. Right in the crook of my left arm. While I slept.

I woke up with a quarter-sized irritation which grew in size throughout the day. It itched and it was hot; icing it helped alleviate some of the minor pain.

The next morning, though, I woke up with something that had grown much more sinister. The swelling extended over most of my arm, and the quarter sized irritation from the previous morning was now a raw, red oval like no other bite I’d ever had.

To make matters worse, later in the morning, I noticed a red streak running up my arm. When the Urgent Care nurse I called heard about the red streak, she asked no more questions. “Yeah, let’s make you an appointment,” she said. Red streaks indicate an infection, which can be big trouble if it gets to your heart, right? And so I went into the clinic and got a prescription for antibiotics.

The whole thing got me thinking, though. Without proper treatment — or, say, in the pre-antibiotics years — could the bite have been fatal? Even here in insect-innocuous Wisconsin? My doctor wife says probably not but possibly. Of course, she’s not a medical doctor . . .

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