Bees, Hornets, Wasps and Yellow Jackets
- Upside: They pollinate plants and flowers and help give us fruits and vegetables. They also eat other harmful pests such as grubs and flies.
- Downside: They dole out painful stings and give us anxiety about being stung. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are at risk for suffering severe allergic reactions.
Although typically a source of great anxiety for fear that they might sting you, in fact, bees and yellow jackets rarely do sting unless provoked. So, the number one rule is not to panic and swat at a bee when it comes for a visit. If it lands on your skin, just blow gently rather than smack at it. There are more aggressive species, particularly wasps that can sting in painful attacks if they feel threatened or you wander too close to their nest. While painful, most insect stings usually result in a limited local reaction, with pain and swelling. Unfortunately, about 3 percent of people have more widespread allergic reactions, with rash and hives. The most extreme cases of allergic reactions are called anaphylaxis and symptoms include tongue and throat swelling, wheezing, dizziness or even life threatening shortness of breath and drop in blood pressure. If these symptoms arise, call 911. If you are allergic to stinging insects you should know how to use an epinephrine kit and carry it with you at all times.
If stung and the stinger is still in place, first remove the stinger. Then clean the area with soap and cold water and apply ice. Benadryl and over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone ointment may help calm the reaction. Consider taking a pain reliever as needed.