How To… Deal with Bee and Wasp Stings

Bee and wasp stings: both have stings that can be seriously painful. Honey bees leave stingers in people, while other types of bees, as well as wasps can sting multiple times. Wasps are slightly more venomous and aggressive than bees.
The good news is that most stings don’t present a serious risk. The bad news is that more people have a severe allergic reaction to vespidae stings than to stings from any other type of insect.

 

How to prevent bee and wasp stings:
        • Avoid flowers: Keep an eye out for your buzzing buddies when you’re around wildflowers, where they tend to congregate.
        • Recognise nests: Look around to spot nests and hives, which can be hidden in vegetation or in the ground.
        • Avoid attracting stinging insects: Swatting them away, wearing dark colours or scented creams, and the smell of human sweat can all draw unwanted attention.
        • Get to a safe spot: If you do disturb a nest and get swarmed, then run away until you leave them behind because these insects have a limited flying range.

 

How to treat bee and wasp stings:
        • Remove the stinger: First, make sure no stinger is present in the skin. Bee stingers have an attached sack that continues injecting bee venom, so promptly remove the stinger. The old advice that one must scrape the stinger out has been disproven. It is fine to grab it with your fingernails or some tweezers.
        • Cleanse: Next wash the sting site with antiseptic soap.
        • Ice: Use a cold compress or ice to minimise swelling and pain or itching.

 

How to treat allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings:
        • Use an oral antihistamine for mild reactions: A mild allergic reaction can include welts or hives and red, itchy skin, and can be treated with an oral antihistamine.
        • Recognise a severe reaction: Severe allergies can produce swelling of the face, lips and tongue, along with difficulty swallowing and breathing. These reactions call for an injection of epinephrine (via a device like the EpiPen) and then oral antihistamines when the patient is able to swallow.
        • Evacuate if needed: If a patient has shown signs of a severe allergy, they should also be evacuated for further medical evaluation and treatment.

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