Musings, San Miguel de Allende

Red Fire Ants and the Itch That Won’t Go Away

June 13, 2021

I have a pharmacy in my bathroom of cremes, lotions, and antihistamines. I am adding to its selection weekly to no avail. My arms still itch, making me scratch nonstop and turn into a royal bitch.

I have a history of sunburns starting in my youth when baby oil and iodine were the suntan lotions of most teenage girls. I added layers of the stuff throughout the afternoon, ending up as red as a lobster by evening. Once it was so bad that I couldn’t wear underwear to school, hiding my blistering body under a maxi halter and sitting down at my desk in a delicate matter.

I thought I learned my lesson years later and switched to other tanning oils and lotions that unfortunately did the same number on my skin. A Ph level wasn’t on my mind.

As time went on, I occasionally used more protective sunscreens but was/am still happiest on a sunny, warm day.

I am fair-skinned. And middle-aged, with a history of those sunburns and living in sunny climate Mexico. The perfect storm. Or so they say.

We moved to San Miguel de Allende in 2018. June of that year we joined thousands of other onlookers in Centro to watch the Locos parade come through. It took hours! And the entire time I stood without shelter or sunscreen. I burnt my arms, shoulders, neck, and face well into the ouch factor.

And that is when it all started.

My arms started itching like fire ants were crawling up them. Now it also goes to my neck. It isn’t just an itch; it is also extremely painful. Sometimes leading to a bit of crying.

When it gets at its worse, it takes all of my effort and attention to not scream and throw things, and scratch myself raw. Poor Glenn, he can’t make it better and that is frustrating for someone who wants to fix things and make the boo-boo go away.

We did some digging on the Internet, and what we found was Brachioradial Pruritus.

What is bothersome is the more we ask around to doctors, dermatologists, and neurologists the more unaware we find they are of this condition. Because it is mainly females who suffer, it almost seems to be the fibromyalgia of this time. And I have been tsk-tsked at and told there is nothing there. Some will end up with a psoriasis or eczema diagnosis, confused though because there is no rash, nothing on the skin.

I have found the most helpful information from a Facebook group

Here, people trade their horror stories, photos, and suggestions. It is discouraging to find that there are some that have been suffering for 20 years or so. Still dealing with this painfully debilitating condition.

Some have resorted to gnarly surgeries, which might work for a bit but are certainly no cure.

“It is believed to be due to either cumulative sun damage or nerve root entrapment caused by degenerative spine disease.”  Sun is often a contributing factor, but not necessarily the cause.

I have just had another x-ray of my spine and a doctor’s appointment next week to see where I stand. If anything can be done. That C-5, C-6 vertebra compression seems to be important.

I have tried gabapentin, which isn’t great for my body and only helped a bit. Also in my arsenal is Icy-Hot with Lidocaine which cools a bit but doesn’t last long, antihistamines, Biofreeze, then Blue Goo pain-relieving gel, Uber Numb 5% Lidocaine Topical Numbing Cream, Lidocaine Numbing Cream, a homeopathic pill, oil of peppermint, lavender, and clove, capsaicin cream, UV protection cooling arm sleeves and Ice Packs!! It is getting expensive and all for nothing.

Ice is the one thing that works the best for a bit of relief for most people. I sleep with two icepacks, one on each arm, and changed in the middle of the night. This is going to be a real pain in the ass when I travel again.

Another frustrating thing about this is that it can disappear for a while and I think Yippee, only to have it pop up again and start the nightmare. It presents differently with each individual. More confusion.

My most recent try is using a TENS EMS Unit Muscle Stimulator. I got it two days ago and using it several times a day can offer a bit of respite. Maybe the longer I use it, the better I will be.

So, why am I writing this post? To see if anyone in San Miguel has this condition and has found any relief, to make others aware of this, and to stress high UV sunscreen under the sun, something I need to practice more often.

I sincerely hope this plagues no one else. And if it does, my heart goes out to you.

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  • Reply Christel Chase June 13, 2021 at 5:21 pm

    So sorry to hear of this. I hope things improve SOON.

  • Reply Jeffrey June 13, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Sounds awful. Since you mentioned it I wanted to tell you that I used gabapentin for awhile and it was useless, that was until I switched to Lyrica, now generic as pregabalin. Lyrica/pregabalin is a newer drug developed specifically to improve on the shortcomings of gabapentin, not only doing a superior job but also being milder on the liver and more absorbable… and I love it!! You will too. I suggest you ask a chronic pain doctor or a neurologist for a trial prescription. 50mg capsules are the standard and I take 100mg twice a day, or spread it out into three times a day. But 100mg is not a lot in the grand scheme of things. I have a friend with carpal tunnel and she takes 300mg at a time. Let us know if you try it and if it helps. It has a secondary effect of calming the nervous system (which is what helps my dystonia) so it may help you calm the nervous system from registering your itching. So it treats the symptoms more or less, as far as I know. It is not a cure.

    • Reply ourprimeoflife June 13, 2021 at 7:42 pm

      I have heard of Lyrica and will check it out with my doctor and see if it is available in Mexico. These things sure suck!!

  • Reply Pat Hall June 13, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    I have the same white, white skin and the same problems. I can’t even wear sunscreen because that only makes the itch worse.

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