Ventanas Mexico

Resources for full- or part-time life in Mexico

Provides a blog promoting living in Mexico and promotes books on learning Spanish and how to rent in Mexico.

Why You Should Never Ignore an Insect Bite in Mexico

Periodically, I hear stories of exotic entomological tales from travelers and residents of Mexico.  My friend Michael, a veteran of Mexico after many years of work there with a second home in Mazatlán, provides one here as a lesson to us all (Make sure to hold out for the ending...which illustrates a critical different between Mexican and American hospitals).

We have had a really great time here.  The weather has been perfect, warm sunny days and cool nights.  We made some more friends and have done lots of happy hours and listened to much live music.

However, I did have somewhat of a misadventure that I will relate to you now that I have your ear (or eyes, I guess).

On Monday I was on our rooftop about to have coffee.  I reached down to move a cushion and was stung by a tiny bee.  It hurt like a son of a bitch but I removed the stinger and figured it would continue to itch and burn for the day, which it did.  I was distracted however by beer, pescado sarandeado, surf and sunshine as we were on a field trip with Pepe to El Caimanero, a distant beach .

Not good

Not good

I went to bed and in the middle of the night I realized that I could barely bend my fingers because of the swelling.  

By morning my whole hand had started to swell.  It looked like some kind of hoof, no maybe a trotter.  I sent the photo below to Lorena and she said she was going to start calling me Pig Man.  Rude!

Worse yet, I had developed purple sores on my finger:

bug bite in Mexico

I decided it was time to go to the doctor so I went to the little hospital across the street.

The doctor examined me, removed his glasses and said, "I have bad news for you.  This problem is the result of the bee sting, but not the venom.  You have a condition called cellulitis.  

"That bee had a dirty stinger and when he pierced your skin he infected you with either staph or strep bacteria.  The infection has now spread up into your forearm.  That purple sore is the beginning of necrosis (skin tissue death)."  

bug.bite.fears.mexico.jpg

"If you had come yesterday I might have been able to treat you with oral medication, but it's too late for that.  The infection is traveling in your bloodstream.  By this time tomorrow this infection will be in your shoulder and soon after that in your lymph glands.  

The necrosis can spread quickly, causing tissue damage that is irreversible.  This is very serious.  The only option now is immediate hospitalization and intravenous medication."

You can imagine my surprise.  But what could I do?  I was picturing what I might end up looking like if my skin started rotting.

So that's how I ended up spending the next 48 hours in a hospital bed attached by tubes to one of those tall racks with plastic sacks hanging from them being pumped full of what seemed like copious quantities of saline, ciproflaxin, and painkillers (though, alas, no opioids).

All's well that ends with a bottle of fine vodka in your hand

All's well that ends with a bottle of fine vodka in your hand

It was boring but not that bad.  The nurses were young and really cute (though they refused my requests for a sponge bath). I got lots of sympathy and attention, both of which I thrive on.

My wife brought me coffee in the morning and bowls of fresh watermelon.  I had visits from several groups of friends who even organized Happy Hour in my room.  (Mexican hospitals are very liberal about visitation)

Lessons learned:

Keep your stinger clean.  You never know what kind of disease you might spread. (This goes for bees and mammals as well)

Oh, and don't ignore a bug bite.

Related links

Mosquitoes are the more obvious carriers of diseases such as Chikungunya.

Other tips for nasty bug bits in Mexico.

An excellent guide to medical care in Mexico by Monica Paxton.

Most recent:  How to stage yourself for a transition to Mexico right by working remotely right now.

Coming up: The long-awaited "Sexiest Songs in Spanish" to celebrate the release of my new book on renting in Mexico (and prove conclusively that I know nothing about marketing books).

Kerry Baker

Kerry Baker

Kerry Baker is a partner with Ventanas Mexico and author of "The Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best free online Spanish tools on the web, organized into lesson plans.

Just released, "If Only I Had a Place," about how to rent luxuriously in Mexico for less which also includes a list of rental concierges in the most popular expat towns in Mexico.