No matter where you live, each summer usually brings out a wide variety of stinging insects. From honeybees and hornets to wasps and carpenter bees (we always called those ones bumblebees), there are a lot of stingers flying through the summer breeze. While visiting family last week, one of my nephews had the displeasure of being stung by a wasp, on his lower lip. Though there were some questions over whether or not his reaction was allergic in nature, this sting highlights the difference between an allergic reaction and a more traditional reaction to a bee sting.
_Most people who are stung by wasps experience a few common symptoms like swelling, itching, and pain. Wasps inject a small amount of venom when they sting, but the effects are generally very localized and usually shortlived. When stung, the best way to treat the it is by removing the stinger (if it's still present), then apply ice to reduce swelling. Administering a dose of diphenhydramine (active ingredient in Benadryl), a popular antihistamine, can reduce the body's reactions to the sting. For most of us, these simple measure generally mean we've completely forgotten about the sting within an hour or so.
_So how do you know if you're having an allergic reaction? Generally allergic reactions will be typified by a set of more severe symptoms. These can include trouble breathing, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and throat. While some swelling is common at the site of the sting, an allergic reaction can show extreme swelling and swelling in body parts that were not stung. If you are experiencing a severe reaction, the treatment outlined above is a good start, but in cases where anaphylactic shock is a reality, you need to seek medical attention immediately or use an epi-pen until full treatment can be obtained.
_In the case of my nephew, we tried ice, but as the swelling continued, it was decided to take him to the doctor where they administered a shot of diphenhydramine, and the swelling subsided almost completely after a few hours.
_Bee stings are almost unavoidable if you spend significant time outdoors, and even if you keep an eye out, bee nests and hives can often be hidden. This means, you may not know until you have been stung that you've disturbed their nest.
_So what can you do to prepare? First, remove nests that you can see. Use your best judgement as to whether, a broom, bee spray or calling a professional is your best option. Secondly, keep Benadryl, or another type of over-the-counter medication with diphenhydramine, in the medicine cabinet or in a travel bag for when you're away from home. If you are severely allergic, you can always keep your epi-pen within reach with an anatote or another protective case that clips to any loop or hangs from a belt. Bee sting kits are also available (by prescription only). Lastly, you may want to consider skipping the fruity/fruit scented body sprays or personal care products as these can sometimes attract insects.
_Though bee stings may be unavoidable while enjoying the summer outdoors, you can reduce the chances of letting an irritated bee ruin your day. And as for my nephew, within a couple hours, he was well enough to spend the evening eating barbecue and playing with sparklers as we celebrated the 4th.