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Preventing and Treating Insect Stings

Insect stings are uncomfortable and can often be distressing particularly if suffering from several stings.

However, the risks of being stung can be minimized by destroying wasp nests in or near the home and taking some basic precautions when outside.

Allergies to Insect Stings

Some people are much more sensitive to insect stings than others and young children tend to be particularly sensitive.

However, three percent of the population are extremely allergic to the insect stings. An allergy to insect stings can develop at any time, even if they have not reacted to a previous sting.

Call an ambulance immediately if someone has a severe reaction to an insect sting.

Symptoms may include fainting, dizziness, nausea or difficulty in breathing or swallowing.

Insect Stings vs Insect Bites

Insect stings should not be confused with insect bites.

An insect (wasp, hornet, etc) stings to defend itself when it perceives a threat either to itself or the colony. It stings by injecting poison into or under the skin. The effect is immediate and results in a sharp, burning sensation.

While some insects sting to defend themselves, others (like mosquitoes) , bite to draw blood. To give the insect time to feed, insect bites have evolved so that the pain is not as sharp as a sting (although the bite of a horse fly is very painful).

Insect Stings

The most common stinging insects are wasps (including hornets) or bees. Wasps are the most aggressive and may sting with little provocation.

Bees are much less likely to sting, usually when they are stood or sat on. The key sign of a bee sting is that it leaves its stinger lodged inside the skin and a venomous sac will continue to pump poison for more than a minute.

In contrast, the only sign of a wasp or hornet sting is likely to be a small puncture hole.

Once stung by a wasp or bee, the surrounding area will quickly redden and a raised welt will form. The welt will lessen after a few hours, but it may remain itchy for more than a day.

Treating an insect sting

There are practical steps Presto X recommends if you are stung by an insect.

If stung by a bee, remove the stinger promptly. This should be done carefully using tweezers. Take great care not to squeeze the sting sac as this will inject more poison into the wound.

If stung by a bee or wasp, wash the wound with soap and water and then reduce swelling by soaking in cold water or by covering it with a cold compress such as ice in a cloth (but never hold ice directly on the skin).

To relieve itching, apply an anti-histamine cream for bites and stings or take an oral anti-histamine tablet (a “hayfever tablet”).

Calamine lotion can also be applied to ease the itch. If the itching is severe, consult your pharmacist or physician.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

For those with a moderate allergy to stings, there may be more general swelling around the wound. Consult your doctor if the swelling is severe or persistent.

Call an ambulance immediately if any of the following symptoms are seen within 30 minutes of a sting:

  • Swelling around the throat, mouth or tongue that could constrict breathing
  • Wheezing, choking or an inability to catch breath
  • Fainting, dizziness or headaches
  • Any chest pains
  • Nausea or stomach cramps

Remember, allergies to stings can develop at any time.

Those stung on two or more occasions in previous years are at higher risk from developing an allergy.

Another group at high risk are those who suffer from other allergies (such as to pollen or pets).

Preventing insect stings

People who are sensitive to insect stings should take care to minimize the risk of being stung, but there are practical steps that we can all take.

To avoid being stung when outdoors:

Try not to swat wasps or bees. This will only agitate the insect.

Do not wave your arms and try not to panic as this will also excite the insect. If you enter an area with many stinging insects, walk calmly and slowly away.

Stinging Insects in the Home or Garden

If there are high numbers of wasps or bees in your home or garden, it is likely there is a nest nearby.

It is important to deal with nests as early as possible – wasps become more aggressive in late summer and it is much safer to deal with them earlier in the year.

Presto-X offers professional service to take care of wasp nests quickly and effectively.

Learn more in our wasps and bees section or call us for more advice on our toll free number 1-800-759-1942.

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