35. Protect Yourself against Insect Stings

Warm weather months often include days at the beach, picnics in the backyard – and run-ins with bees or wasps. How can you avoid getting stung?

  1. Keep foods and drink containers tightly covered. (Bees love sweet foods like soft drinks.)

  2. Avoid sweet-smelling colognes. Wear insect repellent instead.

  3. Avoid looking like a flower. Choose white or neutral colors that won’t attract bees.

  4. Wear snug clothing that covers your arms and legs and don’t go barefoot.

If these preventive strategies fail and you get stung anyway, heed the following advice.

  1. Gently scrape out the stinger as soon as possible.

  2. Don’t pull or squeeze the stinger. It contains venom and you’ll end up re-stinging yourself. (This applies to bees only; yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets don’t lose their stingers.)

  3. Clean the sting area with soapy water.

  4. Apply a cold compress to the sting immediately. Hold it on the site for 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t put ice directly on the skin.

  5. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever for the pain and/or an antihistamine for the itching and swelling (provided you don’t have to avoid these drugs for medical reasons). Follow the instructions on the labels.

  6. Apply topical 1% hydrocortisone cream as directed on the label to relieve itching and swelling.

  7. If you’re stung in the mouth or tongue, get medical help immediately – swelling could close off your airway.

Symptoms of bee and wasp stings vary depending on where you’re stung and how sensitive you are to the sting. The most common symptoms are limited areas of pain and swelling with redness and itching.

People who are allergic may have a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis (even if they’ve never had an allergic reaction to a sting before). The symptoms of a severe anaphylactic reaction include generalized swelling, wheezing, difficult breathing, a severe drop in blood pressure and sometimes coma and death. Needless to say, this is a medical emergency so if you start to have a serious reaction to a sting, get emergency medical care immediately.

If you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to an insect sting in the past, you should carry an emergency medical kit containing epinephrine (a drug you inject to stop the body-wide reaction), an antihistamine, and an inhaler that contains adrenaline. Also, people who’ve had severe reactions to bee or wasp stings should ask their doctor about allergy shots.

Chapter 1
  1. Fast Relief for Everyday Health Problems