If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, you know it’s no picnic. The pain is intense and the swelling is quite pronounced, but for some people, a bee sting could be so much more than a nuisance. It could be deadly.
Roughly 100 people die each year in the United States as a result of bee stings, many of which could have been prevented. Read on to learn what to watch out for and how to safeguard you and your loved ones from these little pests.
Bee Sting Dangers
The dangers from getting stung by a bee range from itching, moderate pain and swelling that lasts for a day or so to severe cases that could lead to death under certain circumstances. If left alone, and especially if they are in the process of pollinating flowers, honey bees are barely any danger at all.
You are probably more likely to get stung by a bee when he’s at work in and around the hive, if you mishandle them, or if you do any of the following: 1) wear bright-colored, floral or loose-fitting clothing, 2) wear body fragrances, 3) eat or drink sugary beverages/foods, 4) hang around flowers, sticky sweet substances or trash, or 5) swat at a bee or disturb them in some way.
Though rare, serious allergic reactions to bee stings occur within minutes. Those who are aware of allergic reactions may carry doses of epinephrine on their person wherever they go to remedy the situation if a sting occurs, but this is usually typical of severe allergies. Then there are those who are unaware that they are allergic at all, and it takes a bee sting for them to realize just how serious their allergy is.
For them it could be a life or death situation, especially if the sting occurs on the throat area – which could cause the area to swell to the point that breathing is cut off. This is generally what happens when a person goes into anaphylactic shock. If the person who has been stung collapses, develops hives or swollen lips or has trouble breathing, call 911 immediately.
What to Do If You Get Stung
The first thing you’ll want to do is remove yourself from the area where the bee sting occurred, since bee stingers often release pheromones that signal other bees of danger. Being stung in the first place is a sign that the bees saw you as a threat, most likely to their hive. If you hang around the area, you are in danger of being stung again by other bees nearby.
Remove the stinger if it is visible by scraping gently with a butter knife or credit card. It’s important that you remove the stinger as quickly as possible to slow the release of venom. Do not squeeze the area and pull with tweezers or fingers, as that can also release more venom. After removing the stinger, wash the area with soap and water and apply a cold pack to reduce pain and swelling. Despite the many home remedies circulating about, cold water and ice are probably the best ways to soothe the pain and swelling associated with a bee sting.
If you have a severe allergic reaction (especially one you weren’t aware you were susceptible to), you may only have a couple minutes to apply first aid and/or call for help. If possible, let someone around you know that you are allergic and have been stung, in case you pass out or suffer further complications before help arrives.