paederus dermatitis

A Lesson from Mother Nature: Paederus dermatitis

Without a doubt, Mother Nature is our greatest teacher – constantly sending us reminders that many things are just out of our hands. We cannot control everything, even though we like to pretend. A little beetle taught me this. The Rove Beetle. I never even saw him, he’s that small. Smaller than a quarter. I could have touched this beetle, or I could have simply touched a spot where he had been, and this is what shockingly happened:

Paederus dermatitis

I woke up like this. I thought I had a severe allergic reaction and came out with hives due to some known allergens. Even if that was the case, I knew this was bizarre. I never have burst out in hives like this.

I decided to wait it out and see if the hives went down before rushing to the hospital. I waited 3 days. The first day, I woke up with a huge swollen lip, then the spot changed to a huge swollen eye with marking around the face.

Paederus dermatitisPaederus dermatitis













Finally, on the 3rd day, I knew I needed to go to the doctor. My eye was huge and I could barely see out of it.


Paederus dermatitis

I went to the ER but the doctor there told me since I took antihistamines to no avail, this is not just hives.

We have 2 options: I can hook you up on an IV of antihistamines, which I don’t think will work, or you go to the specialist because I think this is something new.

I wait for my turn for the rather popular dermatologist in the fabulous Franco – Vietnamese Hospital my boyfriend sent me to. A live pianist calms down the patients in the lobby on her baby grand. I get a coconut cut open at the cafe, a coffee cake and a shot of espresso to pour into my coconut. I decide to treat myself for the wait and enjoy this nice hospital. (By the way, this hospital in Saigon may be the nicest hospital I’ve ever seen even in the West so if you need to see a doctor in South East Asia, this is the place!)

It’s my turn for the dermatologist and you won’t believe what she tells me.

Doctor: This is a toxic bug.

She googles it for me: Paederus Dermatitis

Me: What?! I didn’t see any beetle…What do you mean?

Doctor: So tiny! You live in a big apartment block yeah? You leave window open at night and it flies in with light on. Or you touch where it has been. You touch your face, your rub your eyes, you touch your lips in your sleep and the toxin spread. Toxin everywhere. Yes, this very common. I see all the time. You no have hives. This is blister. Yes, big blister from the blister beetle.



The beetles in the genus Paederus are what cause Paederus Dermatitis. These tiny little nasty buggers.

I touched one or touched where one was, touched my face, infected it, then spread it wherever I touch. Now the toxin has passed on to my arm and legs as I sit here typing this.

This pederin in the Paederus beetles is highly toxic and according to my wikipedia research, more potent than cobra venom. 

NO WONDER. I feel like I was bit in the eye by a snake and it kind of is like that. Here’s another gruesome selfie of Paederus Dermatitis. Here it has spread to a small spot on my arm. If I touch this spot on my arm and then rub my leg, it will spread there.

paederus dermatitis

Paederus Dermatitis is really all around the world. This bug has been around for 200 million years and doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere fast. So if you happen to be so unlucky to get this Paederus Dermatitis while you are traveling, don’t freak out. You should go to the doctor to get some cream and anti inflammatories and then just take rest…for 1-3 weeks. Yes, that’s right, I will look like this for the next 1-3 weeks! But don’t freak out, it is quite common the doctor says, it happens all the time. Take it as a lesson from Mother Nature and enjoy your new free time.

Moral of the story: WASH YOUR HANDS and don’t touch your face in South East Asia


Writer and Founder at DO YOU EVEN TOURIST?
Passionate traveller. Sea gypsy. Digital Nomad.

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