Bee and Wasp Stings

What's on your Mind? - August 2019
Whats' on your mind? August 2019

Has anyone else seen lots of bees and wasps around? I went to the local common this week and there were loads of wasps hanging around looking for sweet things.

It is the time of year for it and unfortunately this means an increased chance of getting stung. Whether it is accidentally by stepping on one in the garden with bare feet (happened to me as a child) or you are running around playing and get stung when one flies into you (yes you guessed it, happened to me as a child!) or your child gets curious and the bee or wasp feels threatened (yep, yep me again) it is worth knowing how to deal with a sting and assess whether it is serious and needs medical attention..

What does a sting point look like?

A bee or wasp sting will usually cause a red and swollen lump to develop on the skin. This can be painful and sometimes very itchy, however normally the symptoms will improve within a few hours or days.

Some people can have a mild allergic reaction to a sting and this causes a larger area of skin around the sting to becomes swollen, red and painful. Again though, these symptoms should pass within a week.

Occasionally, some people will get a severe allergic reaction from a sting which can cause symptoms such as breathing difficulties, dizziness and a swollen face or mouth. If this happens to you or someone you are with you MUST get immediate medical treatment by calling 999/112.

So, what should you do if you get stung?

  • If it is a bee sting, the stinger may be embedded in the skin so, using a credit card or something similar which has hard and flat, gently remove the skin by scraping it out. It is important not to use tweezers or pinch the sting as this can actually release more poison into the wound area
  • Wash the area with soap and water so it is clean and doesn’t get infected
  • Put a cold compress on the area to help reduce any pain or swelling. An ice pack with a hand-towel wrapped around it or a cold flannel is perfect. If you have been stung in the mouth an ice cube works well or you can sip cold water. Try to keep the cold compress on the sting for 10 minutes
  • Raise the area up in the air if you can as this will help reduce swelling. You can also take antihistamine tablets or apply creams to help with the swelling and itching. If you have to work after a sting and take antihistamines make sure you check the packets for non-drowsy tablets.

Should I get worried about it?

In general most stings go away in a few days to a week. However, there are times when you should get medical help: Call 111 (the NHS non emergency helpline) or go and see your local Pharmacist or GP if:

  • You are worried about a bite or sting
  • Your symptoms are not improving within a few days or they are getting worse
  • You’ve been stung or bitten in your mouth or throat, or near your eyes
  • A large area (i.e. approx 10cm) around the bite has become red and swollen
  • You have symptoms of a wound infection, such as pus or increasing pain, swelling or redness

Call 999 straight away if you or someone who has been stung is having a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Signs of this type of reaction are:

  • They are wheezing or having difficulty breathing
  • They have a swollen face, mouth or throat
  • They complain that they are feeling sick or being sick
  • They have a fast heart rate
  • They are dizzy or feeling faint
  • They have difficulty swallowing
  • They are loss of consciousness

Things to think about to avoid stings

Sometimes these little blighters (I love you bees, I am really talking about wasps here) just want to sting you and there is nothing you can do. However:

  • If you are out in a pub garden, having a drink out of an unsealed can, glass, cup, take a quick look inside first before taking a sip in case some has accidentally flown inside
  • Wear some form of shoes when running around the garden, particularly if there are flowers on your grass
  • Help your children to understand that bees and wasps are lovely to look at but not to touch and won’t make the best mini pets!

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