When The Bee Stings…
April showers bring May flowers… and flowers bring bees and other stinging insects.
Just as it’s common for humans to become more active with the onset of spring, so it is with insects. They typically stay active throughout the summer and early fall, going into overwinter mode as the cold weather sets in.
For most people and most stings, it’s not necessary to seek professional medical attention, but the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) reports that potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to insect venom occur in 0.4-0.8 percent of children, and 3 percent of adults, resulting in at least 40 fatalities in the United States every year.
In the southern United States, most insect stings come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and bees, with fire ants a significant and increasing problem. Some insects also carry disease, such as West Nile virus, with cases reported from many areas of the United States, including North Carolina.
Even when the reaction is not severe, bites and stings can cause pain and/or discomfort. Fortunately, mild reactions can be treated with simple first aid remedies at home.
Mild Reactions: First Aid Tips
If the skin in the area affected is red, swollen and painful, try these steps:
- First get away from the bees or insects. There’s no need to risk further injury.
- Wash the area with soap and water, taking care to remove the stinger if there is one.
- Create a cool compress with a cloth using cold water or ice. Apply to the immediate area.
- If the bite is on a limb, elevate that arm or leg.
- Apply a topical cream or gel to the injured area to relieve pain (ex. hydrocortisone, pramoxine, lidocaine) and/or itch (ex. calamine, colloidal oatmeal, baking soda).
- Take an over-the-counter medication for pain such as acetaminophen (ex. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (ex. Advil, Motrin IB) or take an antihistamine (ex. Benadryl, Chlor-Trimeton).
Symptoms should subside in a day or two, but if the wound does not heal or symptoms persist, come see us at Medac or call your primary care physician.
Severe Reactions: Call 911
If the immediate symptoms are not confined to the area of the bite or sting (for example, if you are stung on your ankle but your whole leg swells), you should seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Severe or life-threatening symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness, fainting or confusion
- Swelling of the lips, eyelids or throat
- Rapid heartbeat
- Nausea, cramping or vomiting
Additionally, if a child is stung by a scorpion, seek medical attention immediately.
Once you have called 911 and help is on the way, ask the victim if he or she is carrying an EpiPen or other epinephrine autoinjector. If so, offer to help with the injection, usually by administering it to the person’s thigh. Take care to loosen tight clothing and cover the victim with a blanket or other covering. Do not give him or her anything to drink.
If the person is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn him or her to the side to prevent choking. If he or she shows no signs of breathing or has no pulse, begin CPR immediately.
While Medac promotes good health, including getting fresh air and exercise, be aware of insects in the area while enjoying the outdoors and take steps to avoid being stung or bitten. Should you need advanced medical treatment for injury or illness that is urgent but not life-threatening, or if you simply prefer the convenience of dropping in for your health care needs, Medac provides excellent care at four convenient Wilmington locations. Our Military Cutoff, Porters Neck and Monkey Junction locations are open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and the Shipyard Boulevard location is the area’s only urgent care that is open until 11 p.m.