Prescription? What prescription?

Costa Rica has its challenges. I’ve written about some of the things I’ve found challenging here. Recently, we’ve had some pleasant encounters with things that are easier or cheaper (or both). One of these is housecleaning. To have someone clean my (much smaller) house is roughly 40x cheaper. And that’s with a good tip. Getting a professional salon haircut is around 4 times less expensive. And prescriptions? Well. Let’s just say we’ve had a chance to use the pharmacy lately.

Our first opportunity was when Pepe apparently tore his ACL. He was rough housing with his buddy dog here one Sunday night and then there was horrible yelping. He wouldn’t put his foot down at all and the whole thing was quite pathetic. Good nurses that we are, we immediately started him on a regime of icing. He accepted this stoically


When we called the vet the next day she listened to Matt’s description and then suggested we start him on a 5 day course of prednisone. This, she assured us, we could buy over the counter at the pharmacy. For those who don’t know, prednisone is a pretty powerful steroid only dispensed with a doctor’s prescription in the US. Matt was suspicious of the dosage for Pepe’s size but we bought his course for about $6 and dutifully gave him his first dose. Within 6 days he was bearing weight and now has completely recovered. This is a huge relief because when it first happened, and we saw the swelling in his knee, Matt and I were both having visions of paying for knee surgery for our dog. True, it would be cheaper here than in the States but a blow to our budget nonetheless. I feel tickled and delighted that he’s recovered with nary a visit to the vet.

Our next encounter was a little more worrisome because it involved Django. He contracted a very common infection here that locals call “impetigo”. To me impetigo brings up haunting images, but I now see that the CR version is not what we think of as impetigo. Instead, it’s some sort of skin staph infection that kids who move here get but that kids who are born here don’t. Some parents have theorized to me that the kids here get passive immunity through breast milk. In any case, Django got it. Bad. Any little break in his skin suddenly started expanding into a larger and larger sore. Don’t worry, we somehow took no pictures. It started on his thumb and then spread to his abdomen. As the sores grew from pin sized to half-dollar sized I started having freak outs about flesh-eating bacteria. We tried to care for it ourselves for several days but it was clear it wasn’t going away on its own. I had just gotten a number for a physician in a neighboring town when Matt remembered our success with Pepe. Figuring it was worth a shot we went into the pharmacy and showed her Django’s thumb. “Ahhhh,” she said and pulled out a bottle of oral antibiotics. We had been told that this could be treated with topical antibiotics but since it had spread over his whole body we were ready for the big systemic guns. Nevermind that this would be Django’s first ever encounter with antibiotics. We asked if we should do a topical treatment as well and she produced another antibiotic cream, of prescription strength in the US. Looking at all these antibiotics on the counter we tentatively asked for some probiotics. She smiled and produced ten little bullets of clear liquid. For less than $20 we had what we hoped was a full treatment for D.

The medicines were kind of fascinating. They were definitely drugs we have in the US, just in different concentrations. And while I’ve reconstituted medication at work I’ve never been given a bottle of powder to reconstitute at home. Still, within a week Django’s wounds were healed with virtually no scarring. Django was quite pleased with the results and very proud of his body. I occasionally still catch him gazing admiringly at his thumbs.