Prevention and Treatment of Insect Stings

Summer’s lovely gardens and blooming flowers can harbor bees and other stinging insects. Painful stings can often be prevented with a few simple steps.

If you’re going to be outdoors, wear solid, neutral colors so bees and wasps won’t confuse you with a flower. Your best bets are tans, khakis, and white. No matter how pretty, don’t wear floral prints or colors often found in flowers such as bright pink, yellow, or orange.

Avoid the use of fragrances before outdoor outings. Colognes and perfumes are the obvious “scents” but other common toiletry items can also draw insects. Whenever possible, choose mild or unscented hair care products, sunscreens, soaps, and powders.

Don’t go to the park (or other outdoor areas) wearing sandals. Not only do sandals open your toes to possible attack, insects can get caught within the footwear. Choose closed-toe shoes.

Keep foods covered as much as possible during picnics. Don’t leave the leftovers out on the table. Flies are not the only insects drawn by food, especially sodas, fruit juices, and fresh fruit. Yellow jackets are especially drawn toward the remains of your feast. Pick up your trash and place it in a covered waste container as soon as possible.

If approached by stinging insects, proceed with caution. Move with slow steps or stand in place. Don’t swing your arms or hands in an effort to shoo the bugs away – such movements are more likely to cause attack than drive away the insects. Avoid crushing an insect because their bodies release a special scent that will attract others of their species to the scene.

If you are stung, don’t panic. Take deep breaths and try to relax. Although painful, most stings are not serious unless there is an allergic reaction. Bees leave a stinger in place so if possible, remove it from the site. Stingers can be removed with a fingernail or the stiff edge of a driver’s license or credit card. It’s important to remove bee stingers because they contain to pump venom into the wound for several minutes. Try to scrape the stinger out – pull it out only if the other methods fail.

To relive the pain, get rid of the redness, and stop minimal swelling you can:
1. Wash the area with soap and water
2. Apply a cold compress (ice from the cooler is ideal for this if you wrap the ice in a cloth first to avoid the potential for frostbite)
3. Take a pain reliver (asprin, Tylenol, ibuprofen)
4. Use an anti-inflammatory cream for relief if needed.

A paste made from meat tenderizer and a few drops of water does offer relief as does a similar paste made from plain baking soda and water.

If you or someone else suffers any of these symptoms, call 911 or head for the nearest emergency room because these indicate an allergic reaction which can be serious, even fatal.
– swelling of face including lips, tongue, eyelids
-hives especially on the palms of the hands or trunk
-trouble breathing, chest tightening, coughing or wheezing
-dizziness, feeling light-headed, or fainting
-vomiting or diarrhea

If a self-treated sting later becomes red, the red area around the sting grows, feels warm to the touch, or develops red streaks, consult your health care provider because any of these can indicate infection.

Prevention and self-protection are the best options to a sting-free summer but if you are stung, remember to stay calm.

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