Bees are beneficial insects that pollinate about 30 percent of our crops in the U.S. but also endanger a small percentage of individuals who are allergic to their stings. Knowing how to prevent and treat a bee sting can be valuable information to anyone but especially to those severely allergic.
Many people fear bees but most stings occur by accident as the majority of bees are not aggressive by nature. All of the stings I have experienced took place when a bee accidentally collided with me while I was riding my bike.
Learning how to prevent a sting can make you less panicky when they are around. Prevention is especially important as once you have been stung you have a 60 percent chance of having a similar or worse reaction if stung again.
To avoid being stung
•Wear light-colored clothing. Black, red and blue have been shown in studies to attract bees and other stinging insects.
•Don’t wear perfume or cologne as their sweet fragrances draw insects.
•Keep picnic foods and garbage cans covered at all times. Foods, such as fruit, red meat, sodas and anything in heavy syrup, are especially attractive to stinging insects.
•Don’t wave wildly or swat frantically at bees as this only irritates them. Instead, try a gentle pushing or brushing motion.
•Stay out of the territory of stinging insects’ nests as these bugs are likely to attack if their homes are disturbed.
How to decide if it’s normal or allergic reaction
Most individuals experience pain and discomfort with a bee sting while a small number will have a severe reaction, known as anaphylaxis. The problem is most people have difficulty telling the difference between a normal and allergic reaction.
A reaction will occur immediately, within minutes or even hours of the sting. A normal reaction involves redness, swelling and itching around the area stung. Signs of an allergic reaction include:
•Swelling of the face or mouth
•Difficulty swallowing or speaking
•Chest tightness, wheezing or difficulty breathing
•Dizziness or fainting
•Abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.
Treatment for an allergic reaction
•Call 911 if there are signs of a severe allergic reaction.
•Some individuals will carry their own injectable epinephrine (EpiPen) for emergency situations but still should see a doctor.
Treatment for a normal reaction
•Leave the location where the sting occurred.
•Remove the stinger by gently scraping the skin horizontally with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail.
•Wash the area with soap and water.
•To reduce pain and itchiness, apply a paste made from any of the following combinations (baking soda and a little water; one crushed-up aspirin and water; or meat tenderizer and water). Apply ice or a cool wet cloth.
•Symptoms normally lessen or disappear in several hours.