The other morning, as I was getting ready for work, I heard a health report on the radio that caught my attention. The topic was vitamin B12 deficiency. I am interested because I am a vegetarian and have had anemia in the past. The reporter stated that one of the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is grooves on the tongue. Of course, I put down my toothbrush and stuck my tongue out at the bathroom mirror.

The top of my tongue looked smooth but what are those bumps on the side? Obviously, the next step was to head to the computer. I Googled “grooved tongue” and a host of choices popped up. Did you know that tongues can have cracks, fissures, grooves or scalloped edges? The bumps on the sides of my tongue matched up with the scalloped description. The cause is stress or bumping up against the teeth in your mouth.

WebMD and the internet make it easier to play medical detective at home to investigate my real and imagined symptoms. Especially since the typical wait time to see my doctor is three to four weeks. Who knows what could happen by then?

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When I was growing up, my family had an old leather-bound medical book to look up symptoms and diseases. As little kids, I remember turning the pages with my brother and squealing in mock horror to see color photos of patients with mumps, chicken pox or leprosy. I guess I can trace my inquisitive interest into medical maladies all the way back.

Last week, I noticed a small red dot on the upper palm of my left hand. Not a big deal. But the very next day, I noticed a small red dot on the lower palm of my right hand near the base of the thumb. That’s odd. Over the next two days, both red dots became red and raised. The right hand dot felt like a thorn was under the skin. And that spot was very itchy.

Both angry red raised dots became worse immediately after washing my hands. I wash my hands a lot. I should own stock in hand sanitizer and liquid soap companies. The itching spot on the right palm bothered me for two nights.

In an attempt to solve this medical mystery, I turned to the internet. I typed in dots and spots on palm of hand. Then I looked up images of bug bites and skin parasites to see if the lesions matched up with images of tick bites, spider bites, Rocky Mountain spotted fever bites, scabies, etc.

Coincidentally, during this same week, large black carpenter ants had found their way into every room in my house. Do carpenter ants bite? I asked Google and was shocked to learn that, yes, carpenter ants do bite. What’s even more interesting is that carpenter ants can emit formic acid as a defense against predators. The article said that carpenter ant bites can be itchy!

I never saw a carpenter ant on my hands (wouldn’t I notice that?). I had placed ant traps in every room. I had also been squishing the crawling invaders with my handy bug smasher gizmo before pulling off the masking tape and throwing the dead carpenter ants in the trash. Did a couple of hardy carpenter ants emit their formic acid which caused this allergic reaction on my palms?

Almost exactly seven days later, I noticed that as I washed my hands, the left hand spot which had been receding over the last couple of days, suddenly washed off like an old scab. The very next day, during more hand washing, the right hand spot which had also been slowly becoming less itchy and less of a raised bump flecked off.  I also haven’t seen any more carpenter ants. Medical mystery solved.

Kim Kovach always carries antibacterial hand wipes packets in case of a hand washing emergency.