Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Special Post: Belize Going to Tara's Head

If you get sick when you see a tick on you or when someone shows you a surgical scar, this probably is not the post for you. On the other hand, if you think tapeworms are "cool" or secretly hope that you are one day in a position to have to do an emergency tracheotomy on someone with a ballpoint pen, you will enjoy this post.

In the jaguar reserve in Belize, the forest was filled with bottle flies (also known as bot flies or botflies). The bites itched like crazy for days. As it turns out, that is not the whole story. Around the time we got back to the US, Tara began complaining of two sores on her head that burned and caused a lot of pain. We believed them to be bug bites and she thought maybe her winter hat was to blame for the irritation since she had not previously worn it. But when the "bites" did not go away, we started searching on the Internet for possible causes.

Yesterday, we finally hit the jackpot with these websites: One and Two. These sites describe the botfly, a Central American fly known for laying larvae in humans that cause a lot of pain. Tara's symptoms perfectly fit those described. I was nearly giddy that Tara had some worms living in her head and couldn't wait to see them. Tara was, well, the opposite of giddy. So, we set out to try to get the two little guys to show themselves to confirm the diagnosis.

Because they breathe air through a little hole, we were able to cover to hole with Vaseline. Bingo. Out came the tips of the worms through the Vaseline to breathe. As soon as I went near them, they went back into her head at lightning speed. So, to try to kill them, she tried taking an Epsom salt bath and keeping her head under the water for almost an hour. Some people reported that this works well, and it seemed like an easy solution. As soon as she dried her hair, I could see the little fellows gasping for air. Apparently, they had been getting breath-holding lessons from David Blaine.

Next, we covered them with New-Skin for the night to cut off their air supply. New-Skin is basically fingernail polish that is meant to go on small cuts and scrapes for protection. This morning when we got up, we peeled the New-Skin off one of them and the dead worm was visible. I just had to pull him out slowly with some tweezers. He was way longer than I expected and just kept coming. However, the other one was not to be seen. I hoped that he was dead, but when I repeated the Vaseline trick, out he came. We covered him with New-Skin again, but he ate right through it. We're trying again and will use super glue if that doesn't work. The good news is that he has apparently stopped eating Tara's flesh while fighting for his life so he isn't as painful.

Now for the pictures! The first is the hole in her head. In the middle of the hole, you will see a small white dot. That is the head of the larva sticking out. The second is the worm (we will call him George) after extraction sitting on my first-aid kit. You can see the lettering on a Band-aid for a size comparison. The little black things you can see are barbs that it used to stay stuck inside her.

We hope to get the second one out soon. Now is your chance to suggest a name for the second one! If the name is good enough, maybe Tara will let him grow to be full size (about the size of a caterpillar), but that's a lot of Tara's head that it would have to eat, so the name will have to be really good.

(Note from Tara: FYI, I just wanted to note that these are not in any way contagious or transferable from human to human, or human to pillowcase, or anything like that, so if I have slept at your house recently, you have nothing to fear! They can only live inside the body, and can only reproduce once they have reached the adult fly stage, which is never going to happen here in the US. Still, bleh.)

Addendum: On the morning of January 4, we were able to pull the second, larger, larva out of Tara's head. Based on our experiences, we suggest covering the hole with an thick layer of New-Skin (or fingernail polish if that's all you have), letting it sit overnight, then pulling it off. The head of the suffocated worm is likely to be there ready to pull out. If the larvae are not in your head but elsewhere in your body, it seems that some good old duct tape would be just as effective and easier to apply/remove.

20 comments:

  1. Now I'm slightly nauseated and my head won't stop itching!

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  2. Fascinatingly gross.

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  3. Man, you guys have a twisted sense of adventure & amusement! Yuck! But I'll also say that I bet you'll always live an exciting and adventuresome life that others can admire! Way to go!

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  4. I am so thrilled that this story came my way! Sorry, Tara, not thrilled that you had Bots in your head or anything, but pulling those suckers out is the BEST! And I would know, God Bless veterinary medicine! PS: we have delightful warble grubs and cutarebrae in this country that DO reproduce here and are even bigger and grosser when you pull their gummy, gushy, brown bodies out of their breathing holes. I guess I should stop there, my life is too gross for some websites.

    -Missy

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  5. wow thats all i can say

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  6. That's awesome you guys went the DIY route. Gross, and admirable. Seriously. You two rock.

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  7. On the morning of January 4, we were able to pull the second, larger, larva out of Tara's head

    Don't tease, kids. Let's have photographic evidence.

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  9. I have tertiary syphilis.

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  10. Parasites ARE not uncommon. If I were you guys, I'd go on a 30 de-worming program... Clarkia, Paragone or Humaworm (humaworm.com). In fact, if you plan on to continue traveling, consider doing humaworm 4 times a year.

    Disclaimer, I'm not in anyway affiliated with the above products

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  12. Yuk! Poor Tara. You are SO brave. I can't believe you Andy - excited about seeing them? That is scary. Hope you are well again.

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  13. Ha ha ha. I laughed out loud when read that part that you call it George. This is one of the risks that travelers have to face in tropical zones. I will read more of your posts. Buy Viagra Viagra

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  16. I could have stopped reading all the way to the bottom of the page when you stated a warning that this might not be a good post for someone who is scared of surgical scar.
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  17. That is pretty disturbing! I hope you got them all out right away!

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  18. This is truly amazing I like the work that you have done.Thanks for sharing new Art.I think you will be successful..

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  19. That is awful! I am shocked you could find such a camouflaged little thing.

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