As Spring gets ready to burst onto the scene you will see plenty of activity outside. Trees and flowers have been waiting for warmer temperatures. But so have bees, wasps and other stinging insects.
While the majority of insect stings result in minor reactions, venom from these stings causes more deaths in the United States than another kind of venom. Insects cause about 10 million stings in the United States every year resulting in about 100 deaths annually.
Bees leave their barbed stinger in the skin after stinging, killing the bee. The stinger may continue to pump venom for some time after the initial sting. Wasps do not leave their stingers in the skin, but they may sting repeatedly.
People have three kinds of reactions:
1. Local allergic reactions or infections or both. These cause pain, itching, redness and swelling at the site of the sting.
2. Wide-spread skin reactions, such as hives, but without breathing or circulatory problems.
3. Generalized systemic reactions that may lead to breathing problems, shock, or death. Half of the deaths due to insect stings will occur within the first 30 minutes of being stung.
First Aid for insect stings:
• Remove the stinger as quickly as possible. Scraping the skin with a blunt blade or credit card is preferred. Squeezing the stinger should be avoided, but removing the stinger promptly is more important than the method of removal.
• If the affected person develops hives, shortness of breath, fainting, tightness in the throat or vomiting, dial 911 immediately, as these may by signs of a severe allergic reaction.
• Apply cold or ice packs immediately.
• Take over-the-counter antihistamines if available.
• Seek urgent medical care if you have tried these first aid measures and the local reaction is not improving in 20-30 minutes.
• Apply local antiseptics or antibiotic creams or lotions and seek medical attention if signs of infection (redness, swelling, or pus) should develop.
Avoiding bee stings:
• Avoid wearing red or other bright colors.
• Avoid wearing perfume or perfumed skin products.
• Stay as far away as possible from any beehive, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket or fire ant nest.
• Avoid using noisy equipment, such as lawn mowers, within 50 yards of a beehive.
• If stung, avoid flailing your arms or swatting the bees as this will provoke more bees to attack.