Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree

The Black Poisonwood tree (Metopium Brownie or Metopium Toxiferum of the family Anacardiaceae) is also known as Chechen, Chechem (Mayan name), Coral Sumac, Caribbean Rosewood, and Cedro Prieto. It is found throughout Central America, the Caribbean and the West Indies. This tree produces beautiful decorative wood used for carving, wood turning, furniture etc. But it has a very powerful defense mechanism against people!

This form of defense is a highly irritating sap, and when human skin comes in contact with it, the result can be quite an ordeal. It starts with a redness, (like a bad rash similar to poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak and the rest of them…) but often will develop into itchy and burning blisters, and is extremely painful. Depending on the amount of sap and how quickly you treat it, it can remain a rash and be gone in just a few days, or it can develop into a 1st to 2nd degree burn(s). Plus another interesting thing, in my husband’s case, nothing major happen for 3 days, but then on the fourth day he was covered! When you scratch (and you will) and then touch another part of your body (or someone else’s), the infection can easily spread. The picture below is of a hand (mine) and an infected arm (my husband’s) with blisters. The pictures are not that bad, but for the squeamish, you may not want to click it!

That was extremelly painful and lasted for a few weeks. To get it that bad is rather rare though. Usually you only touch the bark of the tree and hopefully treat it immediately. It is then a mild rash and in a very limited area. In that particular case, we did cut lots of trees, which means that the sap was also in the air, landing all over our clothes and body. It was also a very warm day and we were sweating a lot… perfect way to spread it all over your body!

Pictured on the left below is the bark of the Black Poisonwood tree. The black stuff (the sap comes out of the tree clear, but upon being introduced to oxygen it then turns black), which actually looks a lot like tar, is the poison. You do not want to touch this tree at all, but especially the black spots. The leaves of the tree can also be toxic. Now even after the tree is chopped down and dried… it still can be just as potent. In the saw mills when cutting the wood, the dust can have the same burning affect. Or even when you are just burning off a pile of old logs, the smoke can also spread the poison. Pictured on the right is the Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursera Simaruba of the family Burseraceae), which is the natural antidote of the Black Poisonwood. The tree sap relieves rashes, stings and burns. A medicinal tree, tea from its leaves is use to treat fever, low blood pressure.

~~~~~~~~Black Poisonwood ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gumbo Limbo ~~~~~~~~~~

Gumbo Limbo trees grow in the same area of the Black Poisonwood trees. If you have touched the Black Poisonwood, the first thing to do is to find a Gumbo Limbo tree. And as soon as possible you must wash the area very well with any oil dissolving substance as just water and regular soap will not remove all of it (I have also read somewhere that WD40 can be quite effective). You cut a piece of the Gumbo Limbo bark and wipe the inside on the affected area. Hang on to this bark and reapply several times early on. What you can also do is boil the bark, add powdered vitamin C to the boiled water to make a paste that you apply on the burn. But in an extreme case as in the picture of the hand and arm, it is way past the Gumbo Limbo power! You are now dealing with 1st or 2nd degree burns and believe me, it is atrocious. Medicated, anti-itch first aid cream helps relieve the burning and itching and also helps keeping the infection down. And in some cases, as in my husband’s, antibiotics and a steroid medication are in order! I myself used a Sunburn Relief Gel with lidocaine, tea tree oil and aloe vera and it was very soothing and cooling!

One more trick… if you are going to cut or handle Black Poisonwood, apply the Gumbo Limbo to your face, hands and arms before you start. This will provide a good protection as it prevents the sap to stick to your skin. Obviously, we learned that ‘after’ we had to deal with those trees! Not a lesson that we will soon forget!

The Black Poisonwood is hard, dense and very decorative. Here’s a Black Poisonwood Handcrafted drum by Greg Gaylord of Drum Solo


Photo credit Frankie Frost

And due to the high risk in harvesting this wood, it is pricey. Hey, maybe we are sitting on a gold mine here?

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

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Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle

Will your pet, no matter what, catch fleas and ticks in the jungle? It’s a definite yes. But, with scheduled upkeep, it is possible to keep it to a minimum. You can do a combination of little things that brings positive results.


Tick pic copyright of RangerDJ.com ~ Flea pic copyright of ehow.com

Ticks and fleas are bloodsucking parasites who attach themselves to the skin. There are a large variety of species of both ticks and fleas, and many are known to carry diseases. One of the more common one is Lyme disease. Here’s an excellent article by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station if you want to learn more about ticks. And eHow has good info about fleas.

We have four cats and two dogs in a tropical lush jungle environment, so dealing with those parasites have become part of our life. After some trial and error, we have come up with a combination that has worked out best for us.

For the kitty cats, I do the 30 day squirt between the shoulder blades with a product such as Advantage® and Frontline®. If you buy online (which I do as these products are very expensive in Belize) please make sure it is genuine and not a fake which can be inefficient but most importantly, harmful to your animal. I also brush the kitties almost daily with a fine tooth brush which keeps their coat clean and fluffy. They play outside a lot, but they cuddle in bed with us too, and rarely do I find fleas or ticks.

Sammy & Watson

Hey Sammy, lets go chase the other kitty cats!

Now the dogs are a different story! Since they are mostly outside, and like to sleep in the dirt and roll in the grass, it is more difficult to keep under control. In addition to treating the dogs coat, you also need to treat his sleeping and living quarters. The dogs get a monthly shot of Ivomec® and B/12 vitamins. A year ago I had never given a shot to anything, and didn’t really like getting any myself. But now I’m a pro! In Belize, you can buy medications, syringes etc. for your animals. At Reimer’s Feed in Spanish Lookout, a nice guy directed me to the different treatments and instructed me on how to administer the injection. My first time I was very nervous but it turned out to be real easy. Then a neighbor started bringing me her dog every month, and now she too does it herself!

Watson’s sleeping quarters under the power shed

Spraying their sleeping quarters is crucial. Watson likes to sleep on the shed’s porch or under the shed. To keep him off the ground, under the shed is lined with wood pallets. These areas get sprayed with a product called Bañol® (which also controls other local parasites that burro into their skin and cause them to scratch until the skin is raw). Mixed with water, using a yard sprayer, we spray the porch and the pallets. Since this product is also to be used to bathe dogs, we spray him at the same time (watching out not to spay the eyes/face or genitals). For the surrounding areas around their sleeping quarters, we keep the lawn mowed short and also spray a mixture of bleach and water. As for the frequency of the spraying, it all depends on the season and the weather. Being on a creek, the dogs swim pretty much daily, so they also get a regular bath with herbal flea and tick repellent soap. During wet season where it is harder to control, we also use Fipecto® Spray which is good for dogs or cats.

You may have to experiment with different procedures and ideas, and also ask the neighbors what their tricks are. But it is important to keep on top of those parasites as they are very uncomfortable to your animal(s) and if left untreated, can cause skin infections and sores.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Health Issues When Living Abroad
13 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2

Health Issues When Living Abroad

The number one question we get from prospect buyers is “why are you selling?”. This is a reasonable question that all of us always ask ourselves when looking at purchasing a property. It comes from wondering if there’s something wrong with the place, and also it is just plain curiosity! Our first reason for selling is regarding health.

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Picture copyright of Blue Buddies

Before making the “big move”, don’t forget to spend some time researching and exploring all that is health related.
1- How am I doing personally?
2-
Do I have insurance that will cover me abroad?
3-
What health care is available in the country I am moving to?

If you currently have insurance, you need to ensure that they provide ‘worldwide’ or ‘overseas’ coverage. Many insurance companies do not offer it, or have different range of restrictions and exclusions. They might tell you you’re covered, but for how long? Many policies will cover you abroad but they have a maximum length of time that you are allowed out of the country until the coverage stops.

If you don’t have insurance, it is easily available to purchase online. Take time to do some research and there are good resources over the internet. A site I like is Insurance To Go as they give you a comparison table of their different plans, coverage, premiums, limits and deductibles. Many other websites out there will also give you that information.

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Now be ready for the questionnaire people. This is 2008 and it shows! On one questionnaire, they asked; “Have you ever had a headache. If yes, explain below”. Now, can anyone answer ‘no’ to that? So here it is… if you answered ‘no’, you lied and that can be used for refusing to cover/pay a claim. Now if you answered ‘yes’, that can be used for refusing to cover/pay a claim on the grounds of ’pre-existing condition’! Here’s another one; “Do you have any tattoos? If yes, provide size and location”. Hmmm, pretty hard to lie there! So if you do, I imagine any type of blood related illnesses or diseases could be ‘rejected’! And on that questionnaire, they also asked about piercings! But that questionnaire seemed to be unusual. Health insurance applications are generally pretty standard.

When studying coverage, do not waste time with little things like a broken arm. Something like that can be fixed pretty much anywhere and paying for it won’t ruin you! Instead concentrate on more important issues such as ’Emergency Air Evacuation’ to the nearest facility in your country and/or their network. In case of such as a car wreck, a heart attack that leaves you immobilized, you might be in need of urgent and special (expensive) care that is not available in the country where you live. Coverage to look more into are those that can ruin you financially such as cancer, liver disease, anything that would require long term and specialized treatments. So don’t fret about a broken leg or a tooth cavity!

And very important, don’t forget to “always” carry your insurance card with you in case you are alone and unconscious. That can save your life as with this card the medical attendants can immediately call the right place.

As for us this being a reason for selling, we have found out we are uninsurable! Well, they will let us pay the premium, but due to some pre-existing conditions it seemed to us that there would be very few things that they would cover. Being in our mid-forties, we have decided that it is something to consider seriously and relocating back to Canada is our safest bet. The other important reason to relocate has to do with telecommunication problems when living in a 3rd world country.

TropiCat

Other Posts:

1 ~ Living Comfortably In The Jungle Of Central America!
2 ~ Producing And Storing Your Own Electricity, You Have The Power To!
3 ~ Building Off-Grid In The Jungle, Fun But Challenging
4 ~ Easy Broadband Satellite Internet Access
5 ~ Water Supply Considerations, Off-Grid In The Jungle
6 ~ The Domestic Cats’ Life In The Jungle
7 ~ The Belize Mennonite’s Lifestyle
8 ~ How To Live As An Expat In A Foreign Country
9 ~ The Invasion Of The Flood Flies
10 ~ Living in Paradise! But, Where Is It?
11 ~ Solar Panel Placement & Sun Chart Creator
12 ~ Telecommunication Challenges In A 3rd World Country
13 ~ Fleas & Ticks In The Jungle
14 ~ The Dangers Of The Black Poisonwood Tree
15 ~ To Buy Or To Rent When Moving Abroad
16 ~ Home Schooling When Living Abroad
17 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 1 of 2
18 ~ Tips & Hints On Things To Watch Out For During Construction – Part 2