What Steps Should You Take if You are Stung by a Bee, a Hornet, or a Wasp?
Many of us associate bees with spring, but it is in the fall that we should worry the most about bees, wasps, and other stinging insects. Stinging insects are active from early spring to late fall, but their numbers are the largest, and they are most aggressive from August until October. By the time fall comes nests can be rather large. With populations growing steadily over the summer some nests can have 4,000 members! This is also the time of year when natural food sources start to run out. Flowers and insects are not as abundant as they were in the summer. Stinging insects start to see the food that you have at a barbeque or picnic as their own and will become aggressive.
So what do you do if one of these now more prevalent and more aggressive stinging insects actually stings you? There are four important steps to take if you are stung.
- First, check to see if you are having an allergic reaction. If you feel dizzy, have swelling of your lips or tongue, or have difficulty breathing you should go to the emergency room immediately. If you know that you are allergic to bee stings, carrying an epinephrine auto-injector is a very good idea. If you realized that the sting hurt, but you are not having any allergic reaction your next step should be to remove the stinger with a dull edged object, like a credit card. A bee, in many cases, will leave behind the venom sack with the stinger so removing it quickly is optimal. If you are stung by a wasp or hornet the stinger will remain attached to its body allowing it to sting you many times. If you are stung by a wasp or hornet you will likely not need to remove the stinger.
- Next step is to apply a cool compress to the sting. Do not submerge the whole wound in ice as that can cause problems with healing. To make a cool compress, soak a clean cloth in cold water. Then wring most of the water out and fold into a pad. You should hold the compress firmly against the sting. You can re-soak the cloth every few minutes to keep it cool but do not keep it on the sting for more than 20 minutes.
- At this point, if you are feeling itchy and there is a small amount of swelling, taking an antihistamine or applying an antihistamine cream can offer some relief. Do not take any medications if you have not been approved by your doctor to take them.
- Lastly, if you are able, you should elevate the site of the sting as this usually reduces swelling. Although the stinger of a bee, wasp or hornet is relatively small, it can create significant swelling. This sometimes leads people to believe that the site is infected. Luckily it is rare (although not unheard of) for an infection to develop from a sting.
There are no doubts that stings are painful and unpleasant. To reduce the chance of a sting at all, give Cowleys a call to remove nests from your home and yard. We can help give you peace of mind that a sting is much less likely to destroy your back yard picnic or barbeque.