July 31, 2019
Take the Sting Out of Summer
Pull up a picnic blanket and settle in for a relaxing…ouch! That hurts!
Summer offers the promise of long, lazy days and memories made outdoors. For most people, a sting from a honey bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant causes a minor, localized (albeit painful) reaction. But what if you or a loved one have a true insect sting allergy?
People with this allergy experience an immune system overreaction. When they are first stung, the body creates antibodies to fight off the venom, and the reaction is typically mild and may include swelling, itching, or redness. If they get stung again, the allergic response is much more rapid and vigorous. Allergic reactions may include: breathing difficulties, coughing, throat swelling, hives, face/body swelling, dizziness, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
Seek emergency medical help immediately if a serious allergic reaction occurs. An anaphylactic reaction can be fatal. An epinephrine injector should be on-hand at all times for someone with a diagnosed insect sting allergy. Even if you quickly administer epinephrine, you must still seek emergency medical treatment.
No one should be forced indoors for fear of an insect sting. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed! Some practical insect sting prevention measures can be taken, including:
- Watch those drinks – insects love sweet sodas and juices. A can or straw make for easy hiding spots, while an open cup allows you to get a good look at what you’re drinking before you take a sip.
- Keep food covered, and be especially vigilant about sweets. Insects love the sugary stuff.
- Stay calm and quiet when you encounter a stinging insect. Back away slowly and never swat at them.
- Don’t wear perfume or other scented products.
- Stick to light-colored clothes – nothing bright, dark, or floral. Loose, flowy clothes allow insects to get trapped between the material and your body, so tight-fitting is better.
- Cover outdoor trash cans, and don’t store them right next to the house.
- Steer clear of flower beds, bushes, rock piles, wood piles, trash cans, and anywhere else a stinging insect might like to hang out or build a nest. This could include rarely used children’s playsets or buckets and other containers that sit out.
- Wear gloves if you need to work outdoors.
- If you spot a nest or hive, call a professional to remove it.
Patients with severe insect sting allergies can benefit from immunotherapy (allergy shots). While the shots may not necessarily always cure the allergy, they can drastically reduce the severity of an allergic reaction. That’s promising news for those facing serious allergies.
Whether you choose to spend all summer outdoors or just venture out for a picnic or party every now and then, taking simple precautions to avoid insect stings can help prevent a lot of pain and stress. So go out there and drink that tasty lemonade (from a wide-mouthed cup) while wearing tight, light-colored clothing and unscented deodorant!