Bites Stings

The Cooks are blessedly free of dangerous land creatures.

INSECTS

Mosquitoes can be a real nuisance in the Cooks at certain times of year, particularly during the rainy season from around mid-December to mid-April. The worst times for mosquitos are at dawn and dusk. Use repellent (those containing the compound DEET are the most effective). Mosquito coils are available everywhere in the Cook Islands; lighting one will keep your room free of mosquitoes for about six hours.

Screens on windows or mosquito nets over beds are also helpful.

Bee, wasp, centipede and other insect stings are usually painful rather than dangerous. Large centipedes can give a painful or irritating bite, but they're no more dangerous to your health than a bee or wasp sting.

Calamine lotion or Stingose spray will relieve insect bites and stings. Ice packs or antihistamine cream will reduce the pain and swelling. Or you can reduce the itch by using the recommended local remedy for all insect bites: the sap from the base of a rubber-tree leaf.

JELLYFISH

Jellyfish are reasonably common outside the encircling coral reef, but are very rarely found inside the island lagoons. The notorious box jellyfish (seawasp) has not been recorded, but the blue-coloured Indo-Pacific 'Man o' War' is found in Cook Island waters. If you see these floating in the water or stranded on the beach it is wiser not to go in. The sting is very painful. Treatment involves ice packs and vinegar; do not use alcohol. Smaller cubo-medusae are abundant and are found particularly on still, overcast days. They usually produce only uncomfortably irritating stings but rarely can cause generalised symptoms, especially in someone with poorly controlled heart disease.

POISONOUS CONE SHELLS

Poisonous cone shells are plentiful along shallow coral reefs. Stings can be avoided by handling the shell at its blunt end only and preferably using gloves. Stings mainly cause local reactions but nausea, faintness, palpitations or difficulty in breathing are all signs flagging the need for medical attention.

SEA SNAKES

As in all tropical waters, sea snakes may be seen around coral reefs. Unprovoked, sea snakes are extremely unlikely to attack and their fangs will not penetrate a wet suit. First-aid treatment consists of compression bandaging and splinting of the affected limb. Antivenom is effective, but may have to be flown in. Only about 10% of sea-snake bites cause serious poisoning.

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