Honey may be sweet, but its maker can wreak havoc as humans of all ages deal with the effects of a possible sting.
At best, the sting leaves localized swelling with an assortment of symptoms. At worst, however, the bee venom — which is protein-based — can lead to a person going into anaphylactic shock.
Summer is prime time for medical personnel to see an increase in insect bites and stings, including those from bees, wasps, yellow jackets and hornets.
Crystal Campbell, a family nurse practitioner based at the Mercy Carthage Hospital's school-based clinic, said most people have localized issues following a sting.
This can include pain at the site of the sting, redness, swelling, itching and a feeling of warmth in the skin. For less severe reactions, Campbell said several treatments exist for at-home care.
This includes extracting the stinger — because bees and yellow jackets are prone to leaving it in the sting site — by either rubbing the area with a credit card or finger nail.
Once the stinger is removed, Campbell said, people should wash the site using soap and water. A cold compress can be used in 20-minute intervals.
Over-the-counter medication to take includes an antihistamine such as Benadryl or Zyrtec, pain management with ibuprofen, and topical treatment using calamine loation or Benadryl cream/spray.
Others who are allergic to the venom can have a rapid onset of anaphylactic shock, causing them to have everything from hives, flushing of the face, swelling of the face and lips, dizziness, confusion and even complications with breathing.
Those with this type of reaction, Campbell said, must seek treatment immediately either through a personal autoinjectible device, calling 911 for emergency medical services treatment, or by traveling to a nearby emergency room or urgent care.
Campbell said it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible because a severe reaction can lead to shortness of breath, which is often increased by anxiety, as well as death.
She suggests those who know they are highly allergic to avoid areas if possible where wasps like to build nests such as crawl spaces, windows and attics.
Campbell also suggests checking areas such as the underneath of barbecue grills or outdoor chairs, as both are prime locations for wasp nests.
“If you are outdoors, consider not wearing bright clothing,” Campbell said. “With colors, bees are attracted to you like flowers. Wear neutral clothing if you can.”