Fire Ants Bite — A Guest Post

[For a change of pace, Julie has written this post to provide her toe-witness account of the most exciting part of our trip to Nevis. So you know that it’s a different writer, Julie’s post is in Flag Blue]

Beware of Killer Ants, Not Killer Bees, on Nevis

Why is it that the tropics always seem to bring out the itchy, buggy and rashy stuff? Or maybe it’s just me.

As a resident of Florida, I’m very familiar with the nasty fire ant, but hadn’t, until recently, had a true experience with their hot-headed, nasty temperament when one steps on their nest.

So, I thought I would share my experience, along with some personal solutions if you ever find yourself in the proximity of these hot headed devils.

The Bite.

During a recent visit to Nevis, a quiet little Caribbean island hidden off the coast of St. Kitts, my husband MT and I were participating in a palm tree planting ceremony to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of our good friends Rick and Eva.

Since MT and I are both shutterbugs, we both took charge of documenting this amazing ceremony with different cameras. Andrew, the grounds man of the Nisbet Plantation found a perfect spot on the Avenue of Palms, then hauled out the baby palm tree, shovel, a big heavy hoe and some white powdery stuff. After digging an appropriately large hole for the tree, and shaking some white powdery stuff around the hole, it was time to plant the palm – and for the event photographers to start clicking away.

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I take my job very seriously. Most times I get so caught up in getting the right angle and framing the photo I forget where I am, or even how my body might even need to contort to get the right shot.

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So, once again, I found myself so excited to photograph each movement – from the close up of the placard, to the smiling faces of Rick and Eva behind the tree, and the anointing of the tree with rum, I constantly elbowed MT out of the way to get a better shot. Again I was so focused on the photos until…”FIRE.”

I had stepped in a pile of fire ants. Ouch! It felt like hundreds of needles were shot into my foot.

Andrew and his assistant immediately shouted to get them off my feet and check between my toes, and said to put water on my feet since the ants hated water. Well, I didn’t see any water, so I did the next best thing, I poured a load of Mt. Gay rum on my feet. After all, alcohol is an antiseptic, right?

“We have a saying on the island, if the ants bite you, that means you’re sweet,” said Andrew, as he sprinkled more powdery white stuff onto the area where I had just stepped.

Funny, the only two areas with the sprinkled white stuff on the entire resort was surrounding us at that moment, leading me to think for the rest of my stay, “How many others are there?” Perpetually looking down at my footsteps for the remainder of my stay.

The Afterbite.

Throughout the remainder of the day, there were no signs of pain at all, just a few red bumps. I thought, “Maybe rum was a good antidote?”

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Just to make sure the rum worked, Eva and I shared a couple of post-ceremony Killer Bees at Sunshine’s. Again, no pain or sting from “the bee.” I was perfectly fine…until the next morning.

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I woke up with the feeling of both feet being on fire. Ran to the shower and doused my feet in water and the burn calmed slightly, but enough to tolerate the pain. The buggers had won.

Within an hour, large red welts started forming on my foot – especially my left foot. No swelling of the foot, just big, weird, red blisters. So, I applied lots of cortisone cream and Neosporin that I had just happened to have brought with me (for the anticipated tropical rashiness.)

Eva also donated some generic “Wal-dryl” to help stop the itch which helped a lot.

Thanks to the wi-fi from tiny the island resort, I was able to Google fire ant remedies, and found I had done just about everything right (although no mention of rum). (Fire Ant Remedies)

However, by the end of the second day, one of the blisters had grown really big and scary. So, I made an appointment through the receptionist at Nisbet Plantation with THE island doctor of Nevis for the next day.

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Western Medicine at its Finest.

The next morning the gang all headed to Charlestown, the capital town of Nevis, to visit Dr. Chandy Jacobs. We all took turns guessing at what the prescription might be on an island – a sacrificial goat? Special amulets to ward off the evil attached to my foot? Or maybe just some antibiotics after he lanced the ugly beast on my toe?

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We waited about 20 minutes before we called his listed cell phone on the door to make sure he was still coming – we figured he was just running on island time, and we were just prompt tourists.

Entering the doctor’s office about 30 minutes later, MT came in with me to hold my hand (and observe – boy was he thrilled). Dr. Jacobs’ office desk, shelves, walls, and corners were filled from floor to ceiling with books on anatomy, childbirth, and other medical text books (I hoped he wouldn’t have to look this one up), in addition to a few books on India.

Dr. Jacobs took one look at my foot and said it was one of the most unique cases he had ever seen since most people who are bitten come in with swollen arms, legs or feet where they were bitten. He commended me for not breaking the blister beast, and was amazed that I had no additional pain in my feet, legs or hips. He asked me what I did after I was bitten. I mentioned the rum and the topical creams. (I assumed none of this was in one of his textbooks.)

Next step – lancing the beast. (MT’s favorite part) This was SO sterilely accomplished using two Q-Tips doused in peroxide then squeezing the blister so that the liquid inside squirted up and over onto his desk like a beautiful fountain. He then sprinkled some white powdery stuff on my toe, stuck a bandage on my toe and wrote a prescription for some antibiotics.

After the procedure, I asked Dr. Jacobs if he was from India (based on the book on the shelf, and somewhat based on what he looked like and his accent). He confirmed and said he was from Kerala – a place MT and I had visited just over a year ago – another very tropical location – so I guess he specializes in rashy tropical stuff.

MT then remarked that he knew Kerala was the birth place of Ayurveda (a fact he would remember because of my interest and training in Ayurveda). Immediately, I hoped that he might know of some other Ayurvedic remedy like topical turmeric, neem cream or ghee mixed with some honey that would make it vanish – instead of a week of antibiotics. But, unfortunately, Dr. Jacobs made clear that that wasn’t his specialty, and proceeded to show us beautiful coffee table book he had in one of his piles about Kerala as we proceeded to reminisce about the beauty of his homeland.

30 minutes later, we were out the door with prescriptions in hand. It only took 3 different pharmacies to find what we needed, antibiotics, Benedryl, a box of plasters, and a small bottle of more white powdery stuff – I was quite impressed actually. The tiny island was quite equipped.

So off we went after the big adventure of island medicine to get a delicious lunch hidden in the hills of Nevis.

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Thinking back, I bet I would have had the same experience in Florida – minus the powdery white stuff.

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2 thoughts on “Fire Ants Bite — A Guest Post

  1. moondance38

    Ugh! I’ve only experienced a few minor bites and it burned and itched like crazy. Hope you’re fully recovered!

    Reply

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