Believe it or not, about 1 million people in the U.S. are stung by bees. Bee or wasp stings are a common problem, especially in the spring and summer and in warm climates. They're painful, as many of us can attest to, but not a serious issue for the majority of people. Generally, a bee or wasp sting will cause pain, itching, warmth and swelling. People with a severe allergic reaction may have trouble breathing or swallowing and even experience a rash, swelling in the face, lips, throat and tongue. More severe cases bring on weakness, a drop in blood pressure and unconsciousness.
Bee stings are rarely fatal, even in those with a severe allergic reaction, however even in people without an allergy to bees and wasps, the amount of venom from a large number of stings can be life-threatening. Post-sting, honeybees leave their stingers in the body, however bumble bees and wasps including hornets and yellow jackets do not. At the site of the sting is where patients will typically feel pain and see swelling and redness. Symptoms usually clear up within a week.
If treatment is needed over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen will have. Those with severe allergic reactions may need other medications like epinephrine to control the reaction, IV fluids and breathing assistance.
Preventing Bee Stings
Minimize your exposure:
- Take care when drinking sweet beverages outside. Wide, open cups may be your best option because you can see if a bee is in them. Inspect cans and straws before drinking from them.
- Tightly cover food containers and trash cans.
- Clear away garbage, fallen fruit, and dog or other animal feces (flies can attract wasps).
- Wear close-toed shoes when walking outside.
- Don't wear bright colors or floral prints, which can attract bees.
- Don't wear loose clothing, which can trap bees between the cloth and your skin.
- When driving, keep your windows rolled up.
- Be careful when mowing the lawn or trimming vegetation, activities that might arouse insects in a beehive or wasp nest.
- Have hives and nests near your home removed by a professional.
Know what to do when you're exposed to bees:
- If a few bees are flying around you, stay calm and slowly walk away from the area. Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.
- If a bee or wasp stings you, or many insects start to fly around, cover your mouth and nose and quickly leave the area. When a bee stings, it releases a chemical that attracts other bees. If you can, get into a building or closed vehicle