Like just about any other parent, I totally freaked when our daughter was stung on her arm and back by a wasp at a backyard gathering a few weeks ago. A large swath of dark, red rash took over her lower arm, scaring me so badly that we went directly to the walk-in clinic where the doctor assured me she was fine.
Red patch still there a week later, I worried myself silly and took her back to the doctor. Still fine. All normal. It will go away, they tell me.
Wasp and bee stings are, unfortunately, par for the course with kiddos this time of year and, while some reactions are quite normal, there are definitely reasons to be concerned about a sting.
I am definitely no expert on backyard sting safety. But, almost every parent I’ve talked with lately seems to be dealing with the dilemma of how to control and what to do when wasps or bees ambush your kids.
So, I thought I’d dig up some info from the professionals:
The BC Health Guide has some good informational articles on how to deal with insect bites. They are definitely useful and can help you figure out if your kiddo may need to see a doctor.
Here are some tips on safety and things to watch for when these guys aim their stingers straight at your kids:
Wasps and bees generally go about their business without bothering anyone, leaving the dirty business to those in the colony whose job it is to protect the nest from intruders. They’ll also defend themselves if disturbed while out foraging.
Once stung the worst is over in a few minutes as the body responds immediately to the sting by releasing fluid from the blood to flush out the poison. There will be redness and swelling for a few hours. Others will suffer a delayed reaction including low-grade fever, mild nausea, tiredness and aches, perhaps several days or a week after the actual sting. In rare cases, people who suffer a delayed reaction may be at risk for anaphylaxis, which can result in irregular heartbeat, shock and death. As with many other things in life, prevention is the best cure.
How to avoid getting stung
Bees are attracted by strong smells and bright colours. So, if you look and smell like a flower, a bee might think you are a flower. They are most active on bright sunny days. Because of their running and playing, children are particularly prone to bee stings. Rapid movement startles the bee and encourages stinging.
Watch what’s in your drink. One of the most dangerous places to be stung is inside the mouth. The resulting swelling can block off breathing with fatal results. Always use a straw.
More tips to keeps bees away
- Wear light colored, smooth-finished clothing. Light colored clothing attracts fewer bees than dark clothing.
- Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants. Don’t wear cologne or perfume. Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries.
- Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. Sweat angers bees.
- Cover the body as much as possible with clothing.
- Avoid flowering plants.
- Keep areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food, so clean up picnic tables, grills and other outdoor eating areas.
If a bee does land…
1. Hold still.
2. Tell kids to pretend they’re statues. Swinging or swatting at an insect may encourage it to sting.
3. Try blowing gently on the bee. This can encourage it to move on while not startling it.
4. If several stinging insects attack you at the same time, run to get away from them. Bees release a chemical when they sting. This alerts other bees to the intruder. More bees often follow. Go indoors or jump into water. Outdoors, a shaded area is better than an open area to get away from the insects.
5. If a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly, and open all the windows.
What to do if you are stung
- Have someone stay with the victim to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
- Wash the site with soap and water.
- The stinger can be removed using a 4 x 4 inch gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers. It will cause more venom to go into the skin and injure the muscle.
- Apply ice to reduce the swelling.
- Do not scratch the sting. This will cause the site to swell and itch more, and increase the chance of infection.
Allergic reactions to be stings
1. Swelling that moves to other parts of the body, especially the face or neck.
2. Difficulty in breathing, wheezing, dizziness or a drop in blood pressure.
It is normal for the area that has been stung to hurt, have a hard swollen lump, get red and itch. There are kits available to reduce the pain of an insect sting.
Contact your doctor immediately or call 911 if your child starts to have a severe reaction to a bee or wasp sting.
Photo courtesy of B. Clempson