Steps to avoid a bee sting
• Avoid smelling like a flower. Don’t wear perfumes, hairsprays and other scented products when outside. • Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing. • Don’t go barefoot outside. • If drinking sweet beverages, be sure to look inside the can, glass or cup before sipping. • Avoid bee hangouts, such as trash cans and flowers.
Ah, summertime, when everything is buzzing — especially the bees. If you’re allergic to bee stings, this might not be your favorite time of year. But if you’ve never been stung by a bee, how do you know if you’re allergic?
Well, you don’t.
“Most people who die from insect stings have never reported an allergy to them,” says Dr. Warren Frick, of Lawrence’s Asthma, Allergy & Rheumatology Associates.
But if you’ve had a reaction to bee stings in the past, Frick recommends being tested to determine if you are truly allergic. If you are, then you can receive injections to desensitize you or carry a bee sting kit, such as an Epi-Pen or Twinject, at all times.
That’s what Linda Gwaltney, Lawrence, does since she was stung by a bee three years ago. Gwaltney was enjoying an outdoor meal when a bee landed on her fork without her noticing it. When she took her next bite, so did the bee, stinging her on the tongue.
“My tongue immediately started hurting and swelling. Soon it became impossible for me to talk,” Gwaltney says.
She rushed to First Med and by then was having difficulty breathing. After intravenous injections, the swelling began to subside and Gwaltney was feeling much better.
Frick says getting stung on your tongue or mouth can be problematic places.
“Those are the most life-threatening areas and can become serious quickly,” he says. “Seek emergency care if you are stung in the mouth.”
But if you’re stung on a limb or other extremity and only have a localized reaction, such as swelling, itching or burning at the site of the sting, it is not considered life-threatening. In those situations Frick suggests elevating the extremity, using cold compresses to relieve swelling and taking an antihistamine.
A honey bee will leave its stinger at the site of the sting, so it’s important to remove it as soon as possible to stop the flow of venom into the site.
“Don’t squeeze it, because that will spread the venom. Use your fingernail to gently scrap it out,” Frick says. “If you can get the stinger out within 30 seconds, you will minimize the reaction to the sting.”