Wasps, bees, hornets and yellow jackets sting in order to protect their colony or themselves. Stinging involves the injection of venom that causes pain and other reactions, such as swelling and redness. Wasps and bumble bees can sting more than once as they are able to pull out their stinger without any injury to themselves. Honeybees however leave their stinger inside the skin and die shortly after stinging.
Most people only have a local reaction to stings such as burning, itching, redness and tenderness in the area that was stung. Some people do have more severe reactions, such as massive swelling and itching that may last up to a week. Some individuals will experience allergic reactions that can cause the person to go into anaphylactic shock.
If you are stung by a bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket, follow these instructions:
- bees that leave behind a stinger should have the stinger removed as quickly as possible (some suggest scraping it out with a blunt edged object – the key is to remove it quickly)
- wash the area with soap and water
- apply a cold pack or ice pack to reduce the swelling
- if required for pain, take an over the counter pain medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
If symptoms such as abnormal breathing, dizziness, hives or excessive swelling, occur, seek emergency medical care as soon as possible. Some people are severely allergic to insect venom and need to seek emergency care to prevent serious complications.