September 2011 Bee and Wasp Stings
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After the stinger is removed, washthe wound and treat it. Several over-the-counter products or simply a coldcompress can be used to alleviatethe pain of a sting. Aerosol or creamantihistamine preparations thatcontain a skin coolant also can help.If the sting is followed by severesymptoms or if it occurs on the neck or mouth, seek medical attentionimmediately, because swelling in theseareas of the body can cause suffocation.
A small percentage of the populationis allergic to wasp or bee stings. If yoususpect that you or a family membermight be allergic or is developing anallergy, go to a physician or allergistfor testing. Allergic reactions to beeor wasp stings can develop anywhereon the body and may include non-life-threatening reactions such ashives, swelling, nausea, vomiting,abdominal cramps, and headaches.Life-threatening reactions such asshock, dizziness, unconsciousness,difculty breathing, and laryngeal blockage resulting from swelling inthe throat require immediate medicalcare. Symptoms can begin immediatelyfollowing the sting or up to 30 minuteslater and may last for hours.In allergic persons, venom componentscirculating in the body combine withantibodies that are associated withmast cells resting on vital organs. Themast cells release histamine and other biologically active substances. Thisresults in a leakage of uid out of the blood and into the body tissues.Blood pressure drops dangerouslylow, and uid builds up in the lungs.If this response isn’t reversed withina short time, the patient may die of anaphylactic shock.Anaphylaxis, if treated in time, usuallycan be reversed by the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) injectedinto the body. Individuals whoare aware that they are allergic tostings should carry an epinephrineinjection device whenever theythink they may encounter stinginginsects. Epinephrine is obtainableonly by prescription from a physician.Antihistamines potentially have valuein combating non
life-threateningreactions but should be used accordingto a physician’s instructions.Another method of combatinganaphylaxis is desensitization. In thisapproach, the patient is subjected toinjections of the venom to which he orshe is allergic in increasing doses overa period of time. Like hay fever shots,the tactic is to build up a protectiveconcentration of antibodies in the blood that will intercept and tie upthe venom components before theycan reach the antibodies on the mastcells. Desensitization with pure venomworks about 95% of the time.
Occasionally a person becomesinvolved in a situation where he orshe is stung many times before beingable to ee from the nesting site.Depending on the number of stings,the person may just hurt a lot, feel alittle sick, or feel very sick. Humanscan be killed if stung enough timesin a single incident. With honey beesthe toxic dose (LD
) of the venom isestimated to be 8.6 stings per poundof body weight. Obviously, childrenare at a greater risk than adults. Infact, an otherwise healthy adult wouldhave to be stung more than 1,000times to be in risk of death. Mostdeaths caused by multiple stingshave occurred in men in their 70s or80s who were known to have poorcardiopulmonary functioning.
A second, potentially life-threateningresult of multiple stings occurs daysafter the incident. Proteins in thevenom act as enzymes; one dissolvesthe cement that holds body cellstogether, while another perforates thewalls of cells. This damage liberatestiny tissue debris that normally would be eliminated through the kidneys.If too much debris accumulates tooquickly, the kidneys become cloggedand the patient is in danger of dyingfrom kidney failure. It is importantfor persons who have receivedmany stings at one time to discussthis secondary effect with theirdoctors. (Wasp stings are as potentin this respect as bee stings.) Patientsshould be monitored for a week ortwo following an incident involvingmultiple stings to be certain that nosecondary health problems arise.
Bees and wasps can be attracted to, ormay react to, odors in the environment.It is best not to use perfume, cologne,or scented soaps if you are goinginto an area of bee and/or waspactivity. Unless someone accidentallycollides quite hard with or swats ata bee or wasp, it is not likely to sting.Avoid going barefoot in vegetation,especially clover and bloomingground covers. Also avoid wearing brightly colored or patterned clothing.If you remain calm when a bee orwasp lands on your skin to inspecta smell or to get water if you aresweating heavily, the insect eventuallywill leave of its own accord. If youdon’t want to wait for it to leave, gentlyand slowly brush it away with a pieceof paper. When swimming in pools,watch out for bees or wasps trappedon the surface of the water. If you nd bees or wasps in the water, it’s best toremove them to avoid being stung.
Stinging incidents often occur whennesting areas of social insects aredisturbed. Be observant of the areaaround you. If you see insects yingto and from a particular place, avoidit. If you are going to be in an areawhere disturbing a nest is likely, wearlong pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Itmight be a good idea to carry a militarysurplus, collapsible mosquito/gnat veilwith you. Stinging insects often yaround the top of their targets. Becausestings in the face can be disorienting,put on the veil, or pull a portion of yourshirt over your head, and run away.Be sure that you can see where youare going. Insect repellent applied toyour skin or clothing won’t deter thesestinging insects.