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Busy bees: Take precautions to avoid insect bites, stings

August 9, 2012
The Daily News


Staff Writer

KINGSFORD - It's been a warm summer and the bees have been busy.

Article Photos

Wasps build a nest in an old truck in Niagara, Wis. Bees and wasps have been busy building nests all summer, and the nests grow larger as autumn approaches.
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo

They're building nests, and are active this time of year.

There are several precautions that should be taken to avoid being stung by a bee or bit by insects this summer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the health effects of stinging or biting insects range from mild discomfort or pain to a lethal reaction for those persons allergic to the insect's venom.

Anaphylactic shock is the body's severe allergic reaction to a bite or sting and requires immediate emergency care.

Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90 to 100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions.

The CDC reports that this number may be underreported as deaths may be mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks or sunstrokes or may be attributed to other causes.

"Bees, wasps, and hornets are most abundant in the warmer months. Nests and hives may be found in trees, under roof eaves, or on equipment such as ladders," said Joyce Ziegler, community health services director at the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department.

"Wasps and other insects build their nests in the summer months; often their nests are largest with the most insects toward the end of summer," Ziegler said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), anyone who is bitten or stung by an insect should call for medical help immediately if they get any of the following symptoms: sudden difficulty in breathing, weakness, collapse, or unconsciousness,

hives or itching all over the body, extreme swelling near the eyes, lips, or private parts that makes it difficult for the child to see, eat or urinate.

Up to 5 percent of the American population may have severe allergic reactions to insect stings. The AAP says these reactions may affect the lungs and air passages, heart, stomach, skin, and other organs.

Tips on what to do if stung by a bee:

- Have someone stay with the individual to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.

- Wash the site with soap and water.

- Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.

- Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers. It can release more venom.

- Apply ice or cold cloth to reduce pain and swelling.

- Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.

Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

To prevent insect stings, the following steps should be taken:

- Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.

- Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, cologne, perfume and deodorants.

- Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries. "You don't want to look or smell like a flower," Ziegler said.

- Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. Sweat may anger bees.

- Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible.

- Avoid flowering plants when possible.

- Keep work and play areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.

- Remain calm and still if a single stinging insect is flying around. Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.

- If you are attacked by several stinging insects at once, run to get away from them. Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.

- Go indoors.

A shaded area is better than an open area to get away from the insects.

"If a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly, and open all the windows," Ziegler said.

Individuals with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an Epinephrine Auto Injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

Dr. Terry Frankovich offered the following advice.

"As with many health-related issues, prevention is key," she said. "Reducing risk and avoiding exposure (as described) when possible and knowing how to respond if a sting occurs can help you to stay safe and healthy in the warm months."

Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is



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