Recently a reader planning a vacation to Panama with her children dropped me a note from the website. She was worried about malaria, dengue, and kissing bugs and wanted to know whether she and her kids would have to spend their entire vacation itching from bites even if they were covered from head to foot in hot clothing.
I told her to pack shorts, tank tops and flip flops, to stay out of the long grass and to have a good time.
It is true that we have bugs here, and some of them are quite nasty. In fact, some are downright dangerous. But the exercise of common sense (eg., don’t touch the pretty bug unless you know it’s safe and stay out of the long grass) and some decent bug repellent pretty much take care of it.
Regarding bug repellent, a lot of people swear by Avon Skin So Soft, which doesn’t have Deet in it and seems overall non-poisonous to humans. (I sure wish someone sold it here. Hint, hint.) Meanwhile, there is a gentleman in Boquete who makes a smelly brown concoction labelled “Jungle Oil.” I personally don’t care for it, but a lot of expats swear by it.
What does work for me is – drum roll here – BABY OIL. I was told about it over three years ago, but didn’t believe it, plus I don’t much care for the feel of it. But when chitra season arrived this year, I was beginning once again to remind myself daily of that old ad in the back of magazines headlined “Dog Itches To Death.” AAARRRGGGHH.
Since I live in a rural area, staying out of the grass is not an option. And so my feet and lower legs were once more covered in itchy red spots and I was all but weeping with the torment and frustration. I had tried taking brewers yeast last year, and I suppose the mosquitoes pretty much left me alone, but my problem is not really mosquitoes, but chitras. And they, apparently, could care less what my B vitamin levels are.
In desperation one night I hauled out the baby oil I had bought so long ago and then ignored. Baby oil does NOT alleviate the itch of existing bites, but it surely seems to prevent new ones. I began making a habit of rubbing a bit on my feet and lower legs after every shower. No new bites. I got cocky and skipped a day or two and… new bites.
So now I don’t skip the baby oil any more. I believe I will buy a spray bottle to make application easier. I have dedicated a towel to keeping the oil off furniture. And I am much, much more comfortable.