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Bali traveller warns fellow Aussies of ‘very painful' holiday injury

Renee Crawford likened her injuries to a chemical burn.

A woman who recently travelled to Bali is warning others after she suffered a "very painful rash" thanks to a beetle commonly found in the holiday hotspot — with the insect also found in Australia.

Initially mistaken for sunburn during her trip, Renee Crawford returned home only to find the red marks had worsened, likening them to a chemical burn which were sore to touch.

The painful rash from a tomcat beetle in Bali looks like a red stinger mark on her right thigh.
The Aussie suffered a painful rash in Bali after she was in contact with a tomcat beetle. Source: 7 News

After some research she discovered the marks had been caused by a tomcat beetle, also known as a rove beetle, which carries a toxin more potent than the venom of a cobra.

"It becomes quite painful and blisters, and the poison spreads easily," the woman told 7 News. "But you don’t feel it when it happens... so it either happened in my bed the first night I was there, or by the pool the next day."

How does the toxin spread

Unlike a cobra, the beetle has no way of injecting the toxin into the bloodstream via a bite or sting, and instead, the Aussie's injuries would have been caused by superficial skin contact or by accidentally crushing it.

"The toxin is spread by the beetles if they crawl on you or on your clothes, bedding or towels and can cause mild to severe skin irritation when the toxin comes in contact with the skin," Dr Swaid Abdullah, an expert in veterinary parasitology, previously told Yahoo News Australia.

"Initial symptoms include reddening of the skin, and a 'burning' sensation. This is followed by painful irritation and itching, and if untreated can lead to extensive pustules and blistering of the skin after four days," he said.

In Australia there are over 2,500 species of the beetle which are commonly found in coastal areas, according to Australian Museum.

Background of a Bali street with signs and overhead power wires with a circle inset of a brown and black beetle.
Tomcat beetles are commonly found in Bali and also in coastal areas in Australia. Source: Getty

What to do if you spot a tomcat beetle

If a beetle is sighted the best thing to do is avoid it or relocate it, with Abdullah strongly urging against cruising them to avoid injuries. However, if skin contact is made with one it is best to immediately wash the area with soapy water and use "cold wet compresses" to soothe the area.

If the injuries worsen like Crawford's, seek urgent medical assistance as the affected area can blister and be painful for up to 10 days if left unattended.

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