10 Ways avoiding the ‘stings’ of summer

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10 Ways avoiding the ‘stings’ of summer

The long carefree days of summer means more time spent outdoors.  But getting stung by an insect can quickly take the fun out of this free and easy season. Getting stung by a flying insect, such as bees, wasps or hornets, is a painful reminder to be careful when outdoors.  Fortunately for most of us, our reaction to a sting is usually mild to moderate with some pain and swelling at the sting site. 

But for others who are allergic to insect stings, it can be downright deadly.  A recent study estimated that more than 6.8 million people were treated in emergency departments across the U.S. for insect bites or stings over a 10-year span.  On average that means someone was taken to the hospital for a bite or sting about every 45 seconds.  In these cases, a life-threatening allergic reaction can escalate resulting in difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, nausea, and unconsciousness.  

Bees, wasps and hornets really don’t mean to harm us.  When they do it’s because they are feeling threatened and are defending themselves. Taking precautions to avoid getting stung in the first place will help protect yourself from these insects.  Here are some strategies to minimize your chance of getting stung:

1.      Avoid looking like a flower when outdoors

Beekeepers wear white and you should too.  Brightly colored clothing, similar to a brightly colored flower, will attract bees to you.  When outdoors keep your clothing neutral by wearing khaki, white, beige, or other light colored clothing.

2.      Avoid smelling nice

Wearing perfume or cologne will attract bees and wasps looking for sweet nectar from a flower.  These insects will pick up on strong sweet-smelling odors and will want to land on you thinking you’re a flower.

3.     Wear shoes when outdoors

Walking barefoot is just asking to get stung by a bee.  Bees love to hover over small flowers in the yard and wasps sometimes make a nest in the ground.  They both will defend their turf if you accidentally step on or near them and the first thing they will go for is your feet.  Put on closed-toed shoes to prevent this from happening.

4.     Eat sugary foods indoors

Sipping on a soda or eating a sugary food outside attracts bees and wasps.  If you set your drink down always check your soda can before taking a drink to make sure one of them hasn’t decided to take a peek inside.  Keep all food and drink covered to prevent bugs from being drawn to them.  Flying insects love the sweet taste of fruit so avoid leaving fruit or the pits of fruit – like peaches – lying around attracting them. 

5.     Remain calm if one is flying around you

Having a bee, wasp, or hornet buzzing around you and keeping still is not easy but if you madly swat at them or run, they’ll see it as a challenge and defend themselves.  If this happens, stay calm and once they realize you’re not a flower and have nothing to offer, they should move on.

6.     When driving, keep your windows rolled up

If your car windows are closed, these pesky flying insects can’t get inside.  If one of them does get inside, pull over when it’s safe to do so and roll the window down to release it.  When attempting to swat at a flying insect while driving is only a disaster waiting to happen.

7.     Keep food containers and trash cans tightly covered

Wasps in particular love leftover food and empty soda and beer cans.  Keeping all food containers and trash cans thoroughly washed with tight-fitting lids on will discourage wasps or other stinging insects from hanging around.

8.     Take precautions when mowing or trimming shrubbery

Wasps and hornets like to make nests in areas of vegetation.  This can be particularly dangerous if you are mowing or trimming shrubbery and you mow or trim right into their home turf.  Suddenly, you can be under attack by not just one, but dozens of angry, stinging insects.  Always inspect your yard and shrubbery for the possibility of areas where they may have made a home.  Have a professional bee keeper or pest control expert remove wasp or hornets nests safely.

9.     Picnic as far away from trash cans as possible

Trash cans are very attractive to bees and other insects, so try to stay away from them

10.  Steer clear of fire ants nests

Fire ants form mounds of dirt up to 12 inches high and they attack when their home has been disturbed.  Wear closed-toed shoes when you are outside and try to avoid stepping on a stinging insect.

·      Take precautionary steps

Overall, taking basic precautionary steps can prevent most unnecessary confrontations of dealing with an insect bite or sting – wear protective clothing, use insect repellants, and stay out of infested areas. 

If you are stung

The vast majority of people who are stung by an insect never have anything other than a local reaction at the site of the sting. They might experience mild symptoms at the sting site including:

·      Swelling

·      Warmth

·      Redness

·      Itching

For anyone with a mild reaction, certain basic first aid treatments can help minimize and bring relief from any symptoms noticed. 

However, others can have a more serious reaction and should seek medical attention right away.  Most allergic reactions will start to occur within a few minutes after a sting.  The reaction can happen in a number of different ways – systemic itching, coughing or wheezing, swelling, drop in blood pressure, and hives.  These systemic reactions can be life-threatening.  Because they can progress, it is important to get care immediately. 

Anyone who already knows they have an allergy to bug bites/stings should at all times carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them.