Emergencies Abroad: Lessons from a Scorpion Sting

“To die will be an awfully big adventure,” Peter Pan says. As my foot throbbed on the forest floor,  white hot flashes of pain sliced my nerves, and I lost the ability to walk. My taste for adventure began to dim. The words “take me home” were screamed and sobbed in the hotel infirmary, the taxi, the hospital waiting room, and the examination table. It was only our second night in Mexico, and I had managed to check off an experience many locals never get the chance to: A scorpion sting.


Terrifying, right? Lucky for me, I was stung by one of this fellow’s more aggressive, but significantly less poisonous 221 cousins living in Mexico.




Significantly less toxic and far more common, these little guys sting more than 250,000 people in Mexico annually. Only 8 of the more than 200 scorpion species native to Mexico are toxic, so have no fear spring-breakers.



When college students envision spring-breaking in Mexico, images of margaritas, Corona commercial-worthy beach parties, and salsaing the night away come to mind. Students and their squads flock to the Mayan Peninsula, usually Cancun, for a week of well-earned oceanside relief. Like my fellow Her Campus Kenyon writer Sarah Sklar, I chose a slightly different traveling companion than the usual collegiate for my getaway: my mom. Instead of a packed resort in Cancun, we escaped to a quiet Eco-Resort a little farther south on the Mayan Peninsula in Playa Del Carmen. Even in paradise, you can find trouble… or at least I can.



Lying in my hospital bed, finally able to wiggle my toes again thanks to a cocktail of anti-inflammatories and pain meds administered by Dr. Corona, I realized how underprepared I was for a medical emergency. With study abroad looming in the near future, it’s important to be aware that things can always go wrong during your travels. The longer you spend in a location, the more likely it is that you will need to deal with emergency services at some point during your stay.


Seeking medical attention and other assistance abroad can be expensive, but a little preparation goes a long way. There are very simple things you can do to prepare for travel abroad and all that might entail.


1. Do Your Research

Know the risks of where you’re traveling. The animals, common illnesses, any allergies you have that you could be exposed to are easy facts to look up, which can save you a significant amount of time and pain. Knowing the emergency services available to you is particularly helpful and knowing how to access them is vital.


2. Bring Prescriptions and Medical Supplies From Home

You won’t be needing a full surgery table, but small cuts can become nasty infections depending on locations and personal circumstance. Mild sensitivities to certain medications/ingredients in generic medicines could become a health hazard in another country. Pre-arranging to have your medicines delivered or distributed through a local provider beforehand will simplify your time abroad. This is particularly important for women who are taking birth control, because your particular brand may not be available or may be significantly more expensive outside the USA. Dealing with hormonal and chemical changes in the body, as well as cultural and personal changes is overwhelming and unnecessary. It’s best to save yourself the hassle.


3. ALWAYS Read the Labels of Any Medical Supplies Purchased in a Foreign Country

This will help you avoid rashes, reactions, and extra doctor visits. Bringing your own stash of band-aids, disinfectant, and anti inflammatories/fever-reducers in a small, homemade first-aid kit until you know what is accessible abroad will make this transition much easier.


4. Find Out if Your Insurance Provider is International

If by some twist of fate, you end up needing real emergency attention abroad, a foreign medical fee can cripple your bank account. To prevent this from happening to you and your wallet, check whether your provider offers international coverage or will partner with an international provider. Make copies of all insurance cards, including copies of insurance for contacts, glasses, and dentistry.


5. Get Travel Insurance

We hope you never have to use it, but travel insurance can be the best option for shorter excursions. These short-term policies are usually made with travel agencies or with study abroad agencies so that travelers have a prearranged insurance contract outside their normal policy.


You never expect lightning to strike, or a scorpion to sting, but the fact is that these things happen. Travel is a wondrous part of life. Study abroad will be a remarkable experience, but its shiny exterior doesn’t cancel out the reality that something can go wrong. It’s our responsibility to prevent these things from happening and to handle them with maturity and composure when they hit.


Scars, stings, and stories of a brush with death make for a compelling souvenir, but in truth no one wishes for them. Save yourself the blood, sweat, and tears (and some cash!!!). They can be better spent in the form of experiences, explorations, and those items waiting to be checked off the bucket list.

Image credits: Tumblr.com, Thebuggeek.com