Nothing is quite as scary as seeing a bee or a wasp come toward you, with seemingly murderous intent. Every adult has run into a bee or wasp at some point in their life at least once, and sometimes more, with varying experiences. Some people develop Melissophobia (the fear of bees) after their encounter, though this occurs most often in children and adolescents, or someone with a particularly bad encounter, and Melissophobia helps greatly in contributing to the 12.5% of adults who experience a specific phobia over their lifetime. So what do you do if you or someone you know is stung? How do you prevent it? What steps can you take?
First, we need to start with the symptoms of a bee sting (which we will be focusing on rather than wasps, as bee stings are more common). Sometimes, if you’re a parent, your first warning will be a screaming child or teenager, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, people don’t even realize they’ve been stung because of other factors or events that occurred at the same time, so it’s important to recognize the different symptoms.
It’s also important to keep in mind there are three types of reactions that have varying symptoms. The reactions range as follows: mild, moderate, and severe. We will cover the symptoms of all three here.
- The symptoms for this category are… well… mild. They include a sharp, instant burning pain at the sting site that may lessen as time passes, slight swelling, and sometimes a red welt.
- This category of symptoms usually disappears after a few hours and is not unusually troublesome or disruptive.
- The symptoms for this category are slightly more severe. They include extreme redness (think similar to a sunburn on and around the sting site), and swelling that gradually enlarges over the next few days.
- This category of symptoms can be slightly disruptive or troublesome, sometimes resulting in having to leave activities or events. The symptoms often die down after five to ten days, but it’s important to keep a close eye on the swelling and redness.
- The symptoms for this category are dangerous and act as a warning for what could come. Severe symptoms include skin reactions, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat or tongue, weak or rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, or loss of consciousness.
- If any of these symptoms are experienced, it’s best to seek professional help immediately. Most of the time, severe symptoms are caused by a previously unknown bee allergy, but it isn’t always the case, and those with bee allergies suffer worse then those that don’t. However, in severe cases, allergy or not, it’s best to seek professional help, as the symptoms can point to or warn of anaphylaxis or a heart attack. In fact, between 25% and 60% of people stung by a bee will experience anaphylaxis the next time they are stung, with that number rising even higher for those with previous existing health conditions, such as diabetes.
There’s another category worth mentioning, though it doesn’t truly count as a category, and that’s what happens when there are multiple stings. Most bees aren’t aggressive and therefore sting in self-defense of themselves or their hive, but this can still result in a few stings.
The trouble happens when a hive is disrupted or a swarm of bees is disturbed, and then multiple stings are likely to occur. There are also certain types of bees that swarm, such as the Africanized Honeybees, which swarm and sting in a group. One or two stings are not a problem and can be treated by the methods below if they aren’t severe. However, receiving more than a certain number of stings can result in sting toxicity – that is, you’ll get sick from the accumulation of venom. Sting/Venom toxicity often occurs after 12 stings but can occur in less if the type of bee has a particularly strong venom. The likelihood is small, but it is still important to know the symptoms, which is why it is included in this list.
- These symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the possible symptoms including headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, vertigo, fever, dizziness, convulsions, and fainting.
- If multiple of these symptoms occur after multiple stings, seek professional help immediately.
So you or a friend have been stung. What do you do now? How do you handle a crying child or someone with severe symptoms? How do you treat someone with an allergic reaction? We’ll cover those below.
Mild Symptom Treatment:
- First, remove the stinger, if you can. If it’s above the surface, try and scrape it out using a flat, rectangle card (Such as a gift card or a credit card). Failing that, try your fingernails or even a butter knife. Do not use tweezers or anything that can squeeze the stinger! Most stingers still contain venom inside them, and using tweezers or anything else to pull them out can squeeze the remaining venom into your skin, which can result in a worse reaction. Also, do not try to remove an embedded (that is, below the surface of the skin) stinger!
- Wash the sting site with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress as needed.
Moderate Symptom Treatment:
- Just like step one in treatment for mild symptoms, do your best to remove the stinger if it is above the surface. Just like step one, also, do not use tweezers or attempt to remove an embedded stinger.
- Wash the sting site with soap and water.
- Circle the initial sting site and any swelling with a marker or sharpie to aid in monitoring swelling.
- Apply a cold compress, and if the sting is on an arm or a leg, elevate the limb with pillows.
- Over-the-counter medication can be taken, specifically, ones that contain ibuprofen, such as Advil. You should apply hydrocortisone cream to the sting site if you have any, and if the itching gets too intense, you can take Benadryl, but check with a doctor or nurse to make sure you are not mixing medications.
- Don’t scratch the sting site, and monitor the swelling over the next few days until it dies back down
Severe Symptom Treatment:
- If severe symptoms are noticed, try and take the person who has been stung to seek emergency help. Often, they will be treated with epinephrine to reduce the response, oxygen to help them breath, and an IV with antihistamines or cortisone to reduce inflammation in the airways.
- If severe symptoms are noticed but you cannot get the person who has been stung to emergency help fast enough (such as they’ve stopped breathing or are starting to stop breathing due to an allergic reaction), you can do CPR until an ambulance arrives, or if the person has an epinephrine autoinjector (like an Epi-pen), you can administer it and call and ambulance.
- Do not attempt to treat severe symptoms at home, this can result in injury or even death.
It is also important to note that you should not pull out a stinger that is embedded in the skin. Doing this yourself can open the skin to infection, and/or disease. If the stinger is embedded, go to a doctor to get it removed immediately.
Are there any DIY treatments to get rid of bees?
There are, but the helpfulness is limited and sometimes they don’t work at all. However, if you wish to try them, we have listed some of them here.
- Essential Oils. These include peppermint, lavender, and lemongrass. You can mix them with water and spray them on your porch or house, or you can place essential oil soaked cotton balls around (note: cotton balls are not friendly for pets or children who may swallow them, so use at your own risk!).
- Cucumber Peels. We aren’t sure if this is a folk tale, as we haven’t tried it ourselves, but it ranks highly on the list of DIY treatments, so we’ve put it here. Put cucumber peels by windows to scare off bees.
- Cinnamon. Bees don’t like the smell, so sprinkle it around places you have bees.
- Organic Baby Powder. This works the same way Cinnamon does, though it’s important to use organic.
If you have bees, it’s best to call us to deal with it. Like we said before, dealing with bees yourself is dangerous and can result in severe injury to people or property, not to mention sometimes costing you a hefty sum. Worse, often the DIY options doesn’t work, and the bees come back.
The only sure way to make sure they stay gone is to get a pest control plan to protect yourself and your household. If you call, we can go over your particular situation and find a good bee-prevention/removal plan that fits you, so call now! We’re experts bee exterminators, and we can make sure you don’t have to worry.