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Nature’s hazards: Bees, wasps, and hornets

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Bees, wasps, and hornets are the deadliest non-human animals in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bee, wasp, and hornet stings cause an average of 58 deaths yearly, and the best way to avoid being stung is prevention. These insects sting primarily to defend themselves, their hives, and nests. Effective prevention means not attracting bees and wasps, and not frightening them when they are present.

Tips to Avoid Bee and Wasp Stings
• Be careful when mowing the lawn or trimming vegetation, activities that might arouse insects in a beehive or wasp nest.
• Remain calm if a bee or wasp is flying around and slowly walk from the area. Swatting at the bee may cause it to sting.
• Be aware when drinking sweet beverages outside, as they will attract bees and wasps. Wide, open cups may be your best option because you can see if a bee is in them.
• Tightly cover garbage and recycling cans.
• Avoid wearing loose clothing, which can trap bees between the cloth and your skin.
• Wear clean clothing and bathe daily as sweat may anger bees.
• Avoid fragrances, lotions, and scented soaps that may smell like flowers.
• Wear close-toed shoes when walking outside.
• When driving, keep your windows rolled up. If a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly, and open all the windows.
• If you are attacked by several bees or wasps at once, run to get away from them. Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.
• Have hives and nests near your home removed by a professional.

Bee and wasp stings can produce different reactions, ranging from temporary pain and discomfort to a severe allergic reaction. Most of the time, sting symptoms are minor and include:

• Instant, sharp burning pain at the sting site
• A red welt at the sting site
• Slight swelling around the sting area

Treatment of Bee and Wasp Stings
• Remove the stinger immediately. Scrape the stinger out using a credit card or fingernail.
• Wash the sting site with soap and water.
• Apply a cold compress to the site for 20 minutes every hour as needed.
• Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed to ease discomfort.

Severe Allergic Reaction to Stings
A severe allergic reaction to bee stings is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

• Skin reactions, including hives, rash, and itching skin
• Difficulty breathing
• Swelling of the throat and tongue
• A weak, rapid pulse
• Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
• Dizziness or fainting

Call 911 or other emergency services if you or someone you know is having a serious reaction to a bee or wasp sting, even if it’s just one or two symptoms. Also, seek prompt medical care if you’ve been swarmed by bees and have multiple stings.

Civilian Health Promotion Services will be offering educational briefings on summertime safety during June. For more information, visit AFMCwellness.com, or contact your local CHPS team. Comprehensive information on bees, wasps, and hornets can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov.