Living in the Tropics

The weather is great, but heat and humidity have their downsides.  One of these is the insects.  Insect problems can, for the most part, be minimized by following a few basic rules. 

Food storage / cleanup:  Never leave food remnants (even crumbs or spills) around.  It is amazing how fast insects appear (ants, fruit flies etc.) when food remnants are left out in the open.  Wipe down counters after food prep and eating.  We usually put our fruit in the fridge or leave intact fruit in a bowl covered by a towel on the outdoor kitchen counter.  We have seen the occasional cockroach and there are ants and the occasional large black (harmless but ugly) beetle.  Any dry foods need to be kept in sealed airtight containers (kept in the middle drawer to the right of the stove) or they will become soggy very quickly.  Make sure container lids are on tightly. Make sure that the lid is on the kitchen garbage bin.  We request that absolutely NO FOOD or DRINK be brought into the bedrooms.  Sweeping out the bedrooms daily also helps in minimizing or even preventing  insect encounters.

As far as bugs and people are concerned, the main culprits are sand flies (?no-see-um?s?) and mosquitoes.  They can be minimized however.  The worst times for these pests to get you are in the early morning on the beach (between 6 and 8 am) and in the early evening (between 4 and 7 pm).  They are not bad if there is a brisk breeze, but on still days they can be a real bother.  By avoiding being outside at these times, especially if there is no breeze, and by using insect repellent (strong stuff!), you can reduce the number of itchy bites you get.  It is inevitable that you will get a few bites, especially on your lower legs.  The itchiness can be treated using the locally available ?Jungle Salve?, or various creams and lotions that you can bring from home.  Gold Bond powder, Benadryl cream, and other insect bite and itch relieving creams are available at all pharmacies at home?bring them with you as they are not always available in Belize.  Another item I recommend you bring along is Benadryl (or similar) tablets.  If you do get some annoyingly itchy bites, taking a Benadryl tablet (25 or 50 mg) at bedtime can get you through the night.  Some of our guests who seem to attract bug-bites have found that taking a dose of antihistamine every night at bedtime prevents bug bites from being bothersome.  Reactine can also be taken daily for those who are hypersensitive to bites.  Of course you should check with your doctor if you have underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications, but overall this seems to work very well.   It is always a good idea to avoid leaving clothes and towels lying on the floor or the deck, particularly if they are wet.  If you pick something up that has been lying on the ground / floor for any length of time, pick it up by the edge and shake it out, in case bugs have made a home in there...unlikely but could happen.  This is also very true for shoes - all closed shoes should be turned and shaken before putting on in the morning to ensure that something has not crawled into them!  While it has not yet happened to us, there are scorpions around, as in every tropical locale.  There are also black widow spiders and tarantulas about.  The former should be killed and the latter are harmless unless cornered!  Melvin will spary for pests around the house and pillars before you arrive.

It is also a good idea to bring along some Imodium, pepto bismol, or other antidiarrheal (just in case). 

It goes without saying that sunscreen, and other sun protection is always a good idea.  Although I?m sure you will bring your own,  we have a supply of some medicines in the upper cupboard beside the outdoor kitchen door, and extra sunscreen and insect repellent is in the lower drawer, below the coffee filters.  You are welcome to add to the collection of 'almost-empty' bottles when you leave!  They are also available in local grocery stores at 'import' prices.

A discussion about snakes:  There are poisonous snakes in Belize, just as in any tropical environment in North, Central, and South America - including Cancun and the Carribean Islands where you may have already been.  Generally, the snake to watch for is a Fer-de-Lance.  It is in the rattlesnake family and is similarly colored.  If it hears you coming, it will generally leave but if cornered will bite.  If you see one, give it clearance.  We have not actually seen one but have heard that they are on the penninsula, and Melvin tells us he has caught a couple.  If you do get bitten, here is what to do:  Over the years, snakebite victims have been exposed to all kinds of slicing, freezing and squeezing as stopgap measures before receiving medical care. Some of these approaches, like cutting into a bite and attempting to suck out the venom, have largely fallen out of favor. This is because it is now known that these things can do harm and it is not known if they really change the outcome. Many health-care professionals embrace just a few basic first-aid techniques. According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be taken: Wash the bite with soap and water;  Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart;  Get competent medical help as soon as possible. Some medical professionals, along with the American Red Cross, cautiously recommend two other measures: If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. A good rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that a finger can slip under it. A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits. DO NOT  allow the person to become over-exerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety. DO NOT apply a tourniquet.  DO NOT apply cold compresses to a snake bite.  DO NOT cut into a snake bite with a knife or razor.  DO NOT try to suction the venom by mouth.  DO NOT give the person stimulants or pain medications unless instructed to do so by a doctor.  DO NOT give the person anything by mouth.  DO NOT raise the site of the bite above the level of the person's heart.

In the event of a more serious injury, there is a First (and more advanced) Aid kit in the pantry.  This includes bandages, sutures, etc.  There is a doctor in Placencia's Medical Clinic (hours unknown), as well as in Dangriga, Belmopan and Belize City.  


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