“Ready or not, here I come,” he yelled.
I ducked under the patio table next to the porch, covered my head with my hands and waited. I felt a dull burning sensation in my wrist first. Then my shoulder started to get hot. Before I could react my entire arm was aching and my ears were consumed by its buzzing.
In an instant, I glanced over my shoulder, saw the swarm and bailed. Rolling and then stumbling to my feet, I ran until the humming cloud started to retreat.
Bewildered, my brother, who had been playing hide-and-seek with me, came to my aid. He arrived just in time to miss all the action, so I explained that I had backed myself into a hornets’ nest and got stung twice on my left arm.
In pain and dizzy, I retreated to the swing set. I can’t recall how long I was swinging, but 16 years later and I still remember the sensation of anaphylaxis as it hit me.
It felt like tiny airbags deployed all over my face and that’s how fast it happened. Sure, I felt a little out of it, but I never dreamed I would be headed to the emergency room shortly after.
I ended up with hives all over my chest and back. My cheeks puffed out and got rock hard. My tongue swelled and stiffened. Then my neck slowly started to tighten. If I wasn’t so dizzy and confused, I may have been a lot more scared.
I wasn’t scared. I didn’t understand what was happening. Honestly, I was excited mom and I didn’t have to sit out in the waiting room when we arrived at the hospital.
It wasn’t until years later that it really set in just how dangerous the whole ordeal was.
Incidentally, I avoided getting stung again for a long time (I was really afraid of my EpiPen). However, in the last week I have been stung twice and both times I immediately freaked out. As it turns out, the panic was all for naught, as wasps and yellow jackets don’t induce my deadly “chipmunk cheeks.” I simply get a severe local reaction, some dizziness, a rash and a lot of itchiness.
With the beginning of fall upon us, nests of insects are at their most aggressive as their food supply dwindles. This is why it’s so important to brush up on treating stings. Obviously, avoiding them altogether is preferable, but in the event you need to quickly alleviate pain it’s better to have some go-to methods.
At this stage of the game, I’m aware of numerous techniques — I’ve kind of become a MacGyver of treating wasp and bee stings.
Wasps and hornets usually don’t leave a stinger behind as they can sting multiple times before dying. Bumble bees also have smooth stingers and can sting more than once. Generally, honey bees are the ones that leave their stinger behind because of its barbed edges. If you can see the stinger is stuck, the best way to remove it is with a blunt edge, using a credit card or fingernail and scratching it out.
Pinching or tweezing is not recommended because you risk releasing more venom into your wound.
15 strange household methods that work
- Witch hazel: Witch hazel naturally reduces the swelling and irritation of any type of insect bite and also works well for bee and wasp stings.
- Baking soda: Mixing baking soda with water to make a paste to put on the sting site is one of the most common remedies and is very effective. It alleviates pain and itching.
- Nail polish remover: This is my personal go-to for treating stings. Nail polish remover helps draw the stinger out — if one is stuck — and also pulls some of the venom out of the wound to limit its effect.
- Ice: It’s an obvious method to reduce swelling at a sting site, but also helps with pain and itching.
- Mud: This is more of a last-resort method. When there’s nothing else around to put on a bee or wasp sting, mud can alleviate the immediate effects of being stung.
- Onion: A sliced yellow onion, juicy side down on a sting wound, can detoxify the wound and neutralize the venom to help reduce inflammation.
- Garlic cloves: Crushed garlic cloves pressed against a sting is one of the best methods for pain relief.
- Peanut butter: Peanut butter helps soothe bee stings, especially.
- Herbs: Both basil and parsley have been known to relieve pain associated with bee and wasp stings.
- Honey: Pure honey poured on the sting site can help manage some of the pain and swelling.
- Lemon: Mainly used for bug bites, lemon juice can help soothe bee stings as well.
- Toothpaste: Applying toothpaste will create a burning sensation, which helps alleviate itching. However, it’s not the best for overall pain management or reducing swelling.
- Potato: Like the onion, a potato can soothe the sight of a sting. However, it’s reliefe is not long-lasting or as effective.
- Deodorant: Using deodorant will briefly relieve the initial effects of being stung; however, will not stop your reaction from spreading or do much for pain relief or itching over time.
- Vinegar (wasps, yellow jackets, hornets): Because members of the wasp family have venom that contains acetic acid, dabbing acidic vinegar on a sting site can help neutralize its effects.
Seeking Medical Attention
Every time I get stung I take two Benadryl and keep my EpiPen on hand in addition to treating the sting site with one of the methods above. For the first half hour, I look for swelling in my face, tongue, lips and neck; hives on my chest and back; dizziness; nausea and itching.
If you experience any type of severe allergic reaction characterized by one of the symptoms listed above, seek medical attention immediately.
- United States Department of Agriculture
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac
- Mother Earth Living
- Vegetable Gardener
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