Last year I wrote about the critters I had encountered in my life here in Belize. There was one I didn’t write about last year and I have had a new one this year.
The first critter encounter I am telling you about involves a scorpion. I know I wrote about scorpions last year but those were just impersonal encounters but last September I had a more personal experience, although I wasn’t stung. I was doing some house-sitting for some friends at the outskirts of town and I noticed that I had a friendly visitor inside the house in the form of a scorpion. I tried to trap it but it was too quick and it hid out under the island in the kitchen. The critter was able to get under the cabinet by following the grout lines of the tiles – I honestly didn’t think they could fit under that small a space but just goes to show what I know….
Anyway, one morning about 6:00 I woke up and sat up on the bed with feet dangling over the side. I felt something weird on my back at the top so I reached around and flicked at my pyjamas. Something fell on the bed behind me, making a bit of a thudding sound. I turned around and it was a scorpion. I’m making the assumption it was the same one that went under the kitchen island about 2 weeks prior but I can’t say for sure. I grabbed the trusty fly swatter, picked up the scorpion from the bed and took it outside. I didn’t get stung and I have no idea how long the creature was with me in bed.
I have come to learn that most of the scorpions that reside in Belize are not toxic to humans. The venom and sting may hurt and you may end up with a red area where stung but unless you are allergic to the toxin you likely won’t have too severe a reaction. I’m glad I didn’t have to learn this the hard way.
Encounter # 2 was more recent – just about 3 weeks ago. My husband wanted to go swimming in the sea, and he encouraged me to join him. In all the time I had been here last year I didn’t go into the sea once and I did kind of mention this point to my family and friends so it didn’t take much to convince me to go into the water. The water was a bit murky from the sand being churned up but with my trusty shoes on I figured I was safe, so I trod carefully into the water. I got in as far as 2 feet from the shoreline and up to about 6” up my leg when I felt something on the bottom of my foot. Startled, I think I jumped, and then I felt an extremely sharp pain on my foot where it becomes a leg. I got out of the water, blood pouring down my foot and oh, man, hurt. At first I thought I maybe was grabbed at by a crab but the shape of the wound didn’t look like claws made it. Good thing we had the car with us that day or the walk to the hospital would have been extremely agonizing. Turns out I was stung by a stingray. The barb didn’t stay in but it did penetrate almost down to the bone with severe tissue damage surrounding the wound entry. Let me tell you, this is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. The venom burns and it burned for just about 6 hours.
The staff members at the local hospital were very good. The downside is that their experience with stingray stings is very limited so the knowledge on how to treat the venom is also limited. Much research over the next few days showed that stingray venom is unable to withstand heat so the initial treatment is to submerge the affected area into water as hot as one can stand it for up to an hour. This breaks down the venom which, I would guess, reduces the pain and probably the surrounding tissue damage. Barring this unknown information, the wound was cleaned and treated, pain shots given, anti-inflammatory medicines, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and antibiotics were provided, all at no cost to me. Over the next week the wound proceeded to get worse so I had to visit the hospital daily for penicillin injections, bandage changes and I was given another oral antibiotic, again all at no charge to me. The staff members were wonderful and helpful and I’m actually pleased that I can give a good review for my experience.
On a final note, I have also learned about doing the stingray shuffle when entering the water. Apparently the vibration made from shuffling your feet will be felt by the stingray and it will move off. They aren’t aggressive creatures but they will protect themselves. And I guess when you are stepped on you use whatever tools you have including a poisonous barb.
Do you know anybody who has been stung by either a scorpion or a stingray? What did they do to stop the hurt?