Mosquito bite near tattoo causes tattoo to raise. Why?
April 25, 2017 6:58 PM   Subscribe

I have a Braille tattoo on my arm. When I get a mosquito bite anywhere within about 6 inches of it it causes the tattoo to raise sympathetically so the braille is palpable, like it would be on an elevator button label or whatever. Today the clerk at 7-11 saw my tattoo and asked if blind people could feel the Braille and I told him about this phenomenon. He acted like I was lying and said, smugly, "well, mosquito bites swell because of histamine and if that was the issue with your tattoo it would be raised all the time." Then he adopted this crossed arms, satisfied, checkmate sort of demeanor. I didn't feel like going and finding a mosquito to try to coax into biting my arm, but what could I have said? It was several hours ago and I am still annoyed.
posted by dirtdirt to Grab Bag (26 answers total)
Him: "Well, mosquito bites swell because of histamine and if that was the issue with your tattoo it would be raised all the time."

You: "Thanks for the science lesson, Chad. So why don't remember to put on the gloves so you don't go getting your histamine all over my Big Bite."
posted by 4ster at 7:06 PM on April 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

"Huh. I dunno....OK, have a good one, bye."

Some remarks deserve no engagement and there's no winning an argument with an asshole. Don't waste your breath.
posted by blnkfrnk at 7:14 PM on April 25, 2017 [11 favorites]

but what could I have said?
"Oh, while you're back there, give me a quick pick Powerball and a SlimJim, buddy."

The bite provokes an immune system response. Your body doesn't know to "get thee directly to the bite," it sends a concentrated response to the general area of the bite and attacks any non-you thing it finds. One of the things it finds are the particles of ink pigment, which are normally ignored.
posted by jamaro at 7:20 PM on April 25, 2017 [29 favorites]

The way to respond to any of this is to say "okay, bye!" He's being a jerk and you don't have to justify yourself.

If you're actually wondering about the tattoo thing - I have many tattoos and parts of them raise randomly. A tattoo is basically both scar tissue and ink deposits. Some of mine have ridges you can feel sometimes or all the times, and for no apparent reason some spots will puff up. Sometimes from cold or heat or whatever.

Scar tissue can react differently to histamine or trauma than other tissue. For example I have a scar on my knee that swells up with any trauma.
posted by Crystalinne at 7:27 PM on April 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Cool story, bro."

Really, there's no "zing!" response to this, because it sounds like he was kinda being a jerk, but he's also not someone you have to deal with a lot (I hope this store is not your local corner shop). Let it go.

FWIW, often but not always, when I am having some sort of allergy attack - which most frequently manifests as sneezing - my most heavily inked tattoos get raised up a little, especially the bits with the darkest inks. My blackwork pieces demonstrate this tendency most dramatically. Sometimes they do this when I'm not experiencing any other noticeable allergy symptoms.
posted by rtha at 7:29 PM on April 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

I like smartarse for dealing with smartarses. Explain that when you encounter a situation where reality contradicts your understanding of the world it's not reality that's at fault.
posted by SometimeNextMonth at 7:48 PM on April 25, 2017

"Huh, is that why YOUR head is so swollen?"
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:49 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

oh god you got your allergies mansplained!

One of my tattoos, and only one, does this whenever something nearby is irritated, like a mosquito bite or light abrasion or something.
posted by girl Mark at 8:52 PM on April 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

All my scars get raised and puffy when I have allergies/am sick/my cat rubs on them. This includes tattoos.
posted by geek anachronism at 10:30 PM on April 25, 2017

"With your advanced medical knowledge, I'd say you're just about qualified to...grab me that packet of chips. Thanks, bye."
posted by Jubey at 11:35 PM on April 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you want to get all classical on his ass, you could go with "And yet it moves" :D
posted by labberdasher at 12:27 AM on April 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

Clerksplaining? Just raise your eyebrows and gesture encouragingly at the card reader with your debit card. Maybe a little nod, too.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:09 AM on April 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I know that stuff like this can be irritating, but I don't think it's typical to be annoyed by such a comment for several hours. So I guess to answer your "what should I have said" question, my suggestion is to stick with something like, "Huh, thanks, good to know! I'd better pay for these Cheetos and be on my way." And then put it out of your mind. It's not worth getting worked up over a stupid comment.

"With your advanced medical knowledge, I'd say you're just about qualified to...grab me that packet of chips. Thanks, bye."

Please don't belittle people (even rude people) for their line of work. Hateful comments like this are just as bad as the clerk's comments!

posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:14 AM on April 26, 2017 [25 favorites]

Best answer: I usually tend to correct people who are almost there with science topics to be mroe completely there at least when I am within earshot. I mean "Mosquito bites swell because of histamine" is almost correct. Mosquito bites swell because histamine is released in areas of potential attack from a foreign body, These histamine molecules bind to the H1 receptor which then goes and regulates a trasncription factor that generates other things responsible for the inflammatory response to a foreign attack. This attack isn't specific to only the mosquito bite and could also sense the ink as a foreign attack (which it wouldn't normally) and thereby cause a mild inflammatory response at the tatoo. That is just my guess and is what naturally comes out of my mouth when people try to explain sciencey things to me if I know better.

How they take the correction is on them, but I usually say something like: Yeah thats pretty close , what actually happens is blah blah blah.

In reality I'm sure my 5 minute mini-lectures on a science topic are nearly immediately forgotten or turned into another close but not quite there idea to be spouted out at another opportunity, but if people are getting closer to a good understanding it should be helpful somehow right?
posted by koolkat at 5:34 AM on April 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I find the weird classist responses above really disturbing. The guy knew something about the subject and extrapolated on it in a smarmy/mansplain-y way: noted. Also noted: presumably all the guy usually does all day is sling potato chips and Slim Jims. That other people think a funny response (to him or in this AskMe) would involve throwing that in his face in a snarky check-mate way is... words seriously fail me. In my opinion, the best response would be to read more about histamine, because you obviously didn't know enough about the subject either, or you could have explained to him why he was wrong.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:20 AM on April 26, 2017 [19 favorites]

I just want to agree with thegreatfleecircus and apologize for my post above. I was in a bad mood when I wrote it and I took it in here, which I should never, ever do. I am sorry that I don't know more about histamines, because if I did, I could have perhaps given a useful answer.

What makes it worse is that as a college student, I actually worked at a 7-11 and I know just how shitty people like me can be.
posted by 4ster at 6:43 AM on April 26, 2017 [8 favorites]

Rub the tattoo slowly and say, "huh, that's odd. Usually this pops right up when I'm irritated."
posted by chavenet at 6:50 AM on April 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

Answering the question in the title; Crystalinne has it, is the scar tissue of the tattoo which is why you see the raise. I have a fair number of scars on my arms, some of which were hypertrophic (although after a few decades they've mostly just become large scars). Mosquito bites, and even cat scratches near them cause sections of the scars to jump up even more prominently than the raised effect I also see around my tattoos. However I only see about a 2 inch radius effect from mosquito bites. I fear the itch factor you might feel.

As for if you want a snappy come back, "Thanks for mansplaining that. If only I had enough passing familiarity with my own body to realize I must be hallucinating this effect." If I mansplained something, and someone used that term in the comeback, I'd immediately be self-reexamining the interaction for where/how I went wrong and apologetic.

For those who would take offense at the term mansplaining; they'll likely have taken offense, and not learned from the incident regardless. I'd like to see this term continue to grow and be used for education.
posted by nobeagle at 7:04 AM on April 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

For various reasons I find myself getting my own body splained to me a fair bit, and about the only response that seems to work is a vaguely uninterested "Huh, yeah I dunno, it's a thing that happens but I couldn't tell you the science" and then change the subject. It is infuriating to have that sort of thing happen to you, but getting upset about it or trying to Win the ensuing conversation or snark the other person into submission doesn't lead anywhere good.

(But yeah, I also have spots on some of my tattoos that get raised periodically — I couldn't tell you what causes it, I don't think it's as concrete as "every time I get a mosquito bite," but it definitely happens. I also have surgical scars that I swear become more raised when I'm sick or exhausted. Bodies are super weird.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:18 AM on April 26, 2017

I favor an eye-contact-for-just-a-beat-too-long + your favorite noncommittal noise approach in situations like these. I mean, I love a good clapback, but some things just don't even warrant a response.

It's frustrating to encounter smug assholes in the wild, but I feel like anyone who was truly happy, well-adjusted, and comfortable with themselves would probably not feel the need to try to prove how smart/cool/better they are by contradicting complete strangers about something they know nothing about. I almost feel bad for people who are like this, because I'm certain that if they felt like they had any real joy in their lives, they probably wouldn't be so insufferable.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:22 AM on April 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I often say vaguely, "oh, how nice for you," even when, as here, it doesn't really make any sense.
posted by JanetLand at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

but what could I have said?


(My tattoo seems to raise up whenever my immune system is especially active, say for instance when I may be fighting off a cold, sometimes when traveling.)
posted by destructive cactus at 9:51 AM on April 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

"It's not braille it's an ancient rune that detects the souls of the damned"

*Rub meaningfully and look into their eyes*
posted by lumpenprole at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'd advise you not to seek vengeance against a 7-11 clerk. He obviously has bigger problems and his job definitely sucks ass.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:29 PM on April 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just say "yes, you are probably right," then move on.
posted by metaseeker at 8:04 PM on April 27, 2017

My go-to for dealing with situations like this (someone says something weird or annoying in what should be a quick and painless transaction) is to brightly and politely say, "Oh yeah?!" like a kid just told me about their imaginary friend.
posted by SassHat at 7:30 PM on May 1, 2017

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