Expat Survival Guide : When Not to be a Welcoming Host – Little Beasties
Expat Survival Guide – To Living Abroad
Little Beasties : When Not to be a Welcoming Host
If you’re arriving in exotic climes, you probably already have some idea that snakes and spiders can be a bit of a bother. Do some proper research on what’s really out there that can kill you. Would you know what to do if a green mamba bit you?
Top Tips for Snake Bites
Try to remember the snake’s shape, size and colour (to tell those later treating you in hospital).
Keep the part of your body that has been bitten still, to prevent the venom spreading around your body. You may use a supportive bandage or a splint (a rigid support to keep the body part stable). However, do not restrict blood flow.
Remove any jewellery or a watch, as these may cut into your skin if the limb swells.
Do not try to suck or cut venom from the bite or rub anything into the wound or use a tourniquet (your may damage the limb, leading to amputation). Needless to say, do not try to catch or kill the snake.
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Just as deadly are some of the things you can’t see. Parasites are likely to be living in your nearby river or lake, so find out before taking the plunge. The Bilharzia Flatworm is commonly found in West African fresh water sites and its very nasty side effects (including vomiting blood) may not make themselves fully known until years after contraction. Meanwhile, your internal organs can suffer irreparable damage.
The Tumbu Fly is another well-known African delight, laying its eggs in moist soil (or damp clothing / bed linen). The larvae then hatch, awaiting a warm host. However welcoming you like to be to unexpected guests, don’t let that be you. Boil like sores on your buttocks are never a good look. Application of petroleum jelly to their breathing-hole will inspire them to pop up and say hello, allowing removal … but their little friends are likely to still be inside you.
Visit the WHO or NHS website to learn more
Malaria is also to be taken seriously. Symptoms may appear up to 15 days after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the parasite and initial symptoms may be mild: fever, headache, chills or vomiting. Of the four strains, P. falciparum is the most deadly, progressing to severe illness within 24 hours, leading to death similarly promptly. Children may also display respiratory distress. Other strains may lie dormant in the liver, bringing relapses for months afterwards. Go to your local clinic for testing immediately if you suspect you have malaria (it takes just 15 minutes to receive results). If you’ve returned from a malarial zone, tell your home doctor of your fears without delay, to ensure testing and appropriate treatment.
Also transmitted by mosquitos, Dengue Fever can be fatal; flu-like symptoms arrive within 4-7 days of being bitten. Most prevalent in South-East Asia but now being seen in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in Africa, the Eastern Med and, even, parts of Europe.
As an expat, you’re likely to be signed up with an international health service (such as SOS) rather than relying on public healthcare: severely under-resourced in most developing countries. Check out your local clinic’s location before you’re in an emergency situation, and the reality of its ‘24-hour provision’. Also find out about your entitlement to medi-vac facilities. Carry their card on you at all times.
Needless to say, it’s in your interest to know basic first aid (and have supplies to hand) – especially if you have children or are travelling ‘up country’. As the scouts say: be prepared. Take some classes before your departure or lobby your employer to organise them at work if you’ve already arrived in your new host country.
On a final note, if you are a ‘short term’ expat, check your existing life insurance policy (often linked to your mortgage), as it may become invalid on your moving abroad, putting your family’s financial security at risk. Check the terms and conditions with your insurer and be completely honest about your change of circumstance, or there could be a nasty surprise down the road.
Where possible, it’s a good idea to negotiate a similar insurance pay out package with your new employer abroad.
Survival Guide – Part Six – Staying Safe
Memory loss? Temporary paralysis? Your drink may have been spiked. Read more about staying safe when you’re out for the evening and particular dangers you may face abroad … in tomorrow’s instalment of the Survival Guide.
Please do add your own tips and experiences below.