The rainy season has gifted Kenyans with the Nairobi Fly, aka the paederus eximius beetle, once again. The fact that the toxin they release is worse than a cobra’s venom, should convince you to be extra careful.
Approximately 1cm in length, these red and black insects can neither sting nor bite, but they can cause a skin irritation known as Paederus dermatitis, when crushed against the skin. This is because their haemolymph contains pederin, which is a potent toxin.
The paederusbeetle is commonly found in humid areas, and is attracted to fluorescent light, which is why so many are found in people’s homes.
The sight of them and the damage they cause is enough to stop grown human beings in their tracks.
The skin irritations caused by the beetle usually affect the neck, arms and face.
A person may not experience any symptoms for the first 12 to 24 hours, but thereafter, you may experience severe burning and itching around the affected area.
Two to three days after contact with the beetle, the area may redden and swell, and small blisters may appear, which may progress to look like boils.
For areas around the joints, where the Nairobi fly may have been crushed, lesions may appear, and these can usually be seen only when the affected area begins to look like a burn.
Further crusting and scaling may occur, but most symptoms resolve in two to three weeks.
Occasionally, areas affected by the Nairobi fly may develop secondary bacterial infection, and this may seem like a skin infection. In addition, the affected area may develop dark patches.
A condition known as Nairobi eye will occur when you come into contact with the beetle’s body fluid or blood. This is when you touch your eye with hands that have come into contact with the Nairobi fly’s toxins, leading to the swelling of the eye, redness, or further complications.
You don’t need to worry, though, because you can tone down its effects. Once contact has been made with the fly, or if you crush the fly against your skin, wash your hands and the affected area immediately with soap and water.
Apply a mild topical steroid ointment and where there is likelihood of bacterial super infection, apply an antibiotic ointment. Usually, oral antihistamines will reduce the itchiness that results in scratching.
To be completely safe, avoid contact with the beetles in the first place.
Here are a few tips:
– During the rainy season when the Nairobi fly is prevalent, close all doors and windows before it gets dark.
– Sleep under a mosquito net.
– If you see one crawling on your skin, blow it off rather than brush it away. This reduces the risk of crushing it. You can also use a piece of paper to remove it from your skin.
– Should you crush one, avoid touching your eyes. Wash your hands and the affected area with water and soap immediately.
– Check areas for the beetle around beds and ceilings before going to bed.
– Clear excess vegetation from and around houses.