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Watch your pants for a scorpion in Costa Rica

Watch your pants for a scorpion in Costa RicaI’ve now learned to watch my pants because I was stung by a scorpion. On occasion, the relevance of an event or experience needs to be related while it is fresh in one’s mind.

Therefore, I’m taking a brief detour in this blog from writing about our home improvement experience to relate to you something that just happened.

I am also sitting down this morning to take a brief respite from my long list of “To Do” projects around the house in order to rest my throbbing leg.

The result of this morning’s event has produced the consequence of creating a new four-part rule.

Rule #1A

Watch your pants and don’t leave any of your clothes on the floor for any length of time.

Rule #1B

Applies to our not leaving our shoes on the floor, either.

Rule #1C

Leave a pair of sandals by the bed to wear to and from any destinations in the dark.

Rule #1D

Keep the outside doors closed as much as possible.

Watch your pants for a scorpion in Costa Rica

Why?

So, here’s my story. I’d been working in the yard on landscaping projects all day. I was dirty and sweaty. So I wanted to clean up for dinner. I dropped my jeans, shirt, and my shoes at the foot of the chair in our bedroom.

The next morning I was getting ready to tackle more projects. So I carried the jeans to the bathroom, put them back on and I felt something scratchy. Like a burr or a thorn near the bottom of my pant leg.

So, I reached down and rubbed it thinking I could locate it and pull it out. What a big mistake! The rubbing agitated the “burr” unleashing a barrage of, at least, four rapid and unwelcome “stings”.

I can’t tell you how fast my pants came back off. But if “pants removal” was a game show contest, I would have been in the running for the grand champion award.

No Critter

I ran to the fridge, pulled out an ice pack, and applied it to the stings. Then I went to the bathroom and shook out the pants in the shower—nada! Therefore, I carefully turned the offending pant leg inside out. This was done very carefully and where I could see that there was no “critter” to inflict further damage.

Out dropped a dark brown scorpion about two inches long. He was quickly dispatched.

A Scorpion

I then applied hydrocortisone cream to the stings. Not knowing enough about Costa Rican scorpions, I had my wife call our neighbor, who is a long-time resident.  She advised us to head for a doctor in town.

Scorpions or “escorpión” in Spanish can be quite lethal in certain parts of this world. The poison has a tendency to travel to the glands in the groin and armpits. And then, I suppose, to the nervous system.

I really don’t know if my course of action (applying the ice pack and the hydrocortisone) was beneficial. But it didn’t seem to do any harm.

The doctor’s office

We hopped in the car and headed into town, but our neighbor’s directions were insufficient to find the doctor’s office. We found no sign or evidence that we were looking in the right place.

Our neighbor was headed out of town when we called. She was worried about me and also concerned that we wouldn’t be able to locate the doctor. She called a mutual Tico acquaintance, who called me. He asked me where I was, and told me to stay put. The acquaintance said he would be there quickly and guide me to the office.

It turns out, we were only a block away. But we would never have found the place on our own. The office was housed in a residence. There was no signage, whatsoever, identifying it as a doctor’s practice.

Watch your pants for a scorpion in Costa Rica

The Doctor

The doctor ushered me into his office. I really don’t have the legs for it and never go out in public wearing them, but I had thrown on a pair of shorts. So, it was easy for the doctor to do his exam. He asked a couple of questions:

  1. About the scorpion,
  2. The length of time since the stings
  3. Whether I was experiencing any pain other than on my calf.

All this, I assume, was in an attempt to determine whether I was going to live or die. My answers must have been the right ones. Because the doctor determined it wouldn’t be a waste of time to give me a shot.

He asked me to drop my drawers and the injection was administered. Remember your mother’s advice, “always wear clean underwear as you never know when you’ll be visiting the emergency room.”

La Farmacia

Then he handed me a prescription and I gave him 7-mil colones (about $14). I went to one of the local farmacias in town. After I gave them the prescription I paid the equivalent of about $5 in the coin of the realm.

Except for gas, my first trip to the doctor cost a total of under $20 and took about 30 minutes.

Those of you who read my blog regularly, know that it is hard for me to leave a topic without offering a bit of advice. So, here goes.

My advice

I have added door-sweep weatherstripping to all exterior doors possible. Most houses in this country have a sizable gap below all doors that lets in lots of ventilation. It makes it easy to invite local “best-left-outside” creatures into your home where they can be most unappreciated.

We have metal screen exterior doors and so get plenty of ventilation. Door sweeps are a great deterrent for keeping out unwelcome guests. I highly recommend adding them.

However, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”. We have gotten into the habit of leaving one or more of our doors ajar to give our two dogs access to the outside. However, this maneuver also gave scorpions and other pests access to the inside.

Scorpion-Free?

Being nocturnal, scorpions move about mostly at night. They’re always looking for dark, warm, and, perhaps, slightly damp places to reside. A pant leg, shoe, or shirt sleeve accessible on the floor might seem like the perfect place to call home.

And keeping a pair of sandals or flip flops beside the bed shouldn’t be too appealing to them.  Those will help prevent you from stepping on one late at night on your way to some destination in the dark.

Today, I’m a bit sore, but very much the wiser. And not to worry, it turns out that none of Costa Rica’s twelve species of scorpions are poisonous.

The Author

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.


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