A Little Knowledge Can Save A Life: possibly your own
Summertime is upon us once again. Many people will head to the beach or the swim club or even a friend’s backyard barbecue. Outdoor activities are the norm which means that the great potential for sun and fun often coincides with the unwanted presence of things that sting.
More than 500,000 Americans visit emergency rooms due to insect stings and bites, leading to approximately 50 deaths over the entire year. Most people will endure the normal itching and burning pain that is visibly marked by redness and swelling. But for others’ a life-threatening allergic reaction known as “anaphylactic shock” will result. It’s a severe whole-body allergic reaction to a protein typically caused by the stinging insect. Immediate medical attention is warranted for people with bee sting allergies in particular. “People who are allergic to bee stings should carry an Epi-Pen with them. It’s a physician-prescribed, self-administered epinephrine (adrenaline) kit,” said Nancy Troyano, Entomologist at Rentokil (Ehrlich).
Insects That Sting
- Carpenter Bees: even though male carpenter bees are more aggressive than females they do not possess stingers. Female carpenter bees are not nearly as aggressive as their male counterparts but will sting if threatened.
- Paper wasps: Unlike yellow-jackets and hornets, are not typically aggressive. They will sting if threatened.
- Yellow jackets: typically half an inch in length are often mistaken for paper wasps. Yellow jackets are easily provoked and are aggressive by nature. They are also important predators of other pests insects.
- Africanized honey bees: they are not native to the U.S. but have spread rapidly in parts of the southwestern U.S. as well as other southern parts of the country. “One thing that separates Africanized bees from other bees is that they involve the entire colony to sting en masse’, said Troyano. She also added that people who are not allergic to Africanized honey bees can die from the stings due to the amount of venom injected.
- European honey bee: Can sting but is usually unconcerned with activities that don’t pertain to the colony. Much like the aggressive Africanized honey bees they-too will lose their stingers leading to imminent demise.
- Scorpions: These mostly nocturnal pests range in size from 1- 4 inches in length. Contrary to popular belief most species of scorpions do not possess venom harmful to humans: only 25 of the 1,500 species possess venom harmful to humans.
How To Avoid Getting Stung And What To Do If Stung
- Wear light colored (tan or white) clothing, preferably long sleeves and pants as well as socks when spending extended time outdoors.
- Avoid swatting at stinging insects as they can become a much bigger problem than simple annoyance.
- If you are allergic, always carry an Epi-Pen and Benadryl on your person. Who knows, maybe it could save your life- if stung.
- Avoid wearing perfume, cologne or use scented shampoos, conditioners or lotions if you will be spending extended time outdoors. Some of these scents will attract certain stinging types while provoking others.
- Cover all food and beverage containers when not consuming.
- Remove the stingers, as they still release venom into wounds. If the insects don’t lose their stingers, like hornets and wasps, flee quickly to an indoor shelter.
- Remove the stinger as venom will continue to enter the wound otherwise.
- Apply cold compress to affected area.
- If symptoms worsen beyond swelling and itching get immediate medical attention-better safe than sorry.
For information and safety tips related to insect bites, click here.
Have you ever been stung by an insect? Share your story in the comments.