Summer is slowly winding down, but but those pesky bees and wasps are still very present and more aggressive than ever during the last picnics of the season or other outdoor activities.
Outdoor activities are to be encouraged, but residents should watch out for active bees.
Bee stings are more common in late summer and early autumn.
In general, bees usually are looking for food, not trouble.
"Many stinging insects, especially yellow jackets, begin to invade human-frequented areas looking for liquids and other sources of nutrition to survive as long as possible," said Laurence S. Kalkstein, Ph.D., a climate/health expert with the University of Delaware's Center for Climatic Research.
Sure, they're just looking for food, but don't cross their paths or you could feel the sting of their fury.
About 100 people a year die from allergic reactions to bee stings.
After you have been stung once, you can become allergic to that insect's venom. The major offenders include members of the order hymenoptera - bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets.
A sting is never pleasant. The normal reaction is burning pain, redness, irritation and itching.
But an allergic reaction is worse.
The area around the bite may swell and you may develop hives, breathing problems, a dry cough, nausea, abdominal pain and vomiting.
Up to 2 million Americans have had allergic reactions to insect stings.
Reactions can include a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction, a reaction of the immune system that can include swelling of your lips, throat, ears, eyelids, palms and the soles of your feet; hives; dizziness; wheezing or shortness of breath; and a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Most insect-sting allergies are to bees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.
Prevention And Treatment
Of course, the best way to avoid an allergic reaction to insect venom is to avoid getting stung. Here's how:
- Keep your distance.
- Stay away from areas where insects congregate, including gardens and hedges, around fruit trees, and near garbage cans, picnic grounds and other areas that attract insects.
- When dining outdoors, keep food covered until you're ready to eat, and clean up afterward. Garage and patio areas should be kept clean and free of debris, and garbage cans should be tightly sealed. If you encounter the insects, slowly back away. Don't swat at them, flail your arms or make sudden movements that could trigger an attack.
- Dress for success. Bees, hornets and other flying insects are attracted to bright colors and floral patterns. So during picnic season, dress in white, khaki and other light solids, covering as much of your body as possible during late summer and early fall when insects are at their peak. And avoid loose-fitting clothing. Insects can become trapped in flimsy garments.
- Insects also are attracted to smells, so avoid wearing perfume, colognes or other fragrances, including suntan lotion, cosmetics, hair spray and even deodorant, when around these bugs.
- Should a bee or wasp fly near you, slowly raise your arms to protect your face and stand still or move slowly away through bushes or indoors to escape. Never move rapidly, which often provokes attack. Never strike or swing at a wasp or bee against your body since it may be trapped causing it to sting. If crushed, it could incite nearby yellowjackets into a frenzied attack. The wasp venom contains a chemical "alarm pheromone," released into the air, signaling guard wasps to come and sting whomever and whatever gets in their way.
- Wear shoes rather than sandals outdoors to avoid contact with low-flying bees, hornets or yellow jackets.
- Check your car before you drive. If you leave your car's windows open, check before getting in to make sure there are no flying insects inside. Running the air conditioner with the windows closed while driving can help prevent on-the-road stings. Also, keep a can of insecticide in the car with you. If a bee or wasp gets into a moving car, remain calm. The insect wants out of the vehicle as much as you want it out. They usually fly against windows in the car and almost never sting the occupants. Slowly and safely pull over off the road, open the window and allow the bee or wasp to escape.
- Advertise if you're allergic. If you know you are allergic to insect venom, wear some sort of medical identification. Many people with insect-venom or food allergies carry a small kit containing a syringe of epinephrine (adrenaline) to use should they begin to develop signs of an anaphylactic reaction.
- Scrape out the stinger. If you get stung by a honeybee, the best way to avoid additional pain is to scrape out the stinger with a credit card or a long fingernail. If you try to pull it out, you'll squeeze the venom sac and accidentally release more venom. But scraping it out leaves the venom sac undisturbed.
- To ease the pain of a sting, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. However. children never should be given aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare, but life-threatening illness. You also could make a paste by mixing water and meat tenderizer and applying it directly to the bite. Insect venom is protein-based, so meat tenderizer breaks down the protein and stops the pain.
- Get your shots. Once you've had a severe reaction to a stinging insect, you have about a 60 percent chance of having another anaphylactic reaction if stung again.
- You can reduce your risk with venom therapy, in which you get injections of tiny amounts of venom from the same insect that causes your allergic reaction. The venom stimulates your immune system to become resistant to a future allergic reaction. Venom therapy is about 97 percent effective.
You probably will need about six to 20 injections, which will increase in dose. The injections will start on a weekly basis and then drop to every two weeks.