"It's a concern anytime there is swelling in the face or an area other than where the sting occurred," says Charles Pattavina, M.D., an emergency physician at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. Other symptoms of an allergic reaction are hives, itching, rash, difficulty breathing, and shock. Most reactions to bees are mild, but severe allergic reactions lead to between 40 and 50 deaths each year. An allergic reaction can occur even if a person has been stung before with no complications.
What You Can DoTo keep bees away, wear light-colored clothing and avoid scented soaps and perfumes. Don't leave food, drinks, and garbage out uncovered. Treat a bee sting by scraping the stinger away in a side-to-side motion with a credit card or fingernail, and then washing the area with soap and water. Pulling the stinger or using tweezers may push more venom into the skin. For any bug bite or sting, ice or a cold compress and OTC pain-relieving creams or oral medications can help.
Because bees puncture the skin with their stingers, there is a risk of tetanus infection. After getting the regular series of childhood tetanus shots, adults should have a tetanus booster shot every 10 years.
Watch for signs of allergic reaction to stings, which typically happen within the first few hours. If you or your child has ever had an allergic reaction to a sting, experts recommend carrying epinephrine, a prescription hormone given by injection to support blood pressure, increase heart rate, and relax airways.
More from the Summer Safety Primer:
- Avoiding Bee Stings
- Avoiding Burns From Fireworks and Grills
- Avoiding Foodborne Poisoning in the Summer
- Avoiding Heat Stroke and Heat Exhaustion
- Bites From Mosquitoes and Ticks
- Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac
- Poisoning in Children
- Avoiding and Treating Sunburn