The Sting

Stinging insects are small but mighty. They can cause mild pain in some people,
or severely endanger the lives of others. Here's how to avoid the perils of
bees, wasps, and other buzzing bugs, especially if you work outdoors!

It's mid-summer and you're probably noticing that bees are especially active
these days. It's their favourite season! And just as their numbers start to
diminish in the fall, it will be time to be on alert for wasps...

Bees sting - leaving a stinger in your skin. Wasps don't leave a stinger, but
their stings tend to cause worse reactions. In general, most stings only cause
temporary pain, swelling and skin redness. In more severe cases however, stings
can have life-threatening effects, depending on where the sting occurs and what
allergies you may have. Being stung in the throat for example, may cause fluid
to build up and cause swelling in the tissues around the throat, making in
difficult to breathe.

Although rare, the most severe allergic reaction to a sting is anaphylaxis
(also called anaphylactic shock). Of those people who die from a severe
allergic reaction to a sting, half die within 30 minutes and three-quarters
within 45 minutes. This reaction can occur the first time you are stung or with
a subsequent sting.

Watch for these symptoms, which tend to appear immediately or up to 30 minutes

  • Hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the sting site
  • Swollen eyes and eyelids
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing
  • Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue
  • Dizziness or sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Shock
  • Unconsciousness or cardiac arrest

What precautions can you take?

Stay away. The best way to avoid getting stung is to avoid insects and be alert
for hives or nests, or where insects are gathered, entering and exiting an
opening. Stinging insects are also attracted to certain foods and may be found
near garbage cans, dumpsters, fallen fruit beneath fruit trees, pet food, and
other sources of food residue.

Avoid provoking the insects. Do not swat at them or make sudden movements. Let
them fly away, slowly walk away, or gently "blow" away the insect. If you have
disturbed a nest and hear wild buzzing, act quickly - protect your face with
your hands and run from the area.

Power tools such as lawnmowers, weed eaters and chainsaws sometimes stir up the
insects. If you are startled or stung while you are working with these power
tools or machinery, you could end up getting injured with much more than a

Let your employers know if you have allergies to insect stings, especially if
you work outdoors. Co-workers should be trained in emergency first aid, be
aware of the signs of a severe reaction, and know how to use the bee sting kit
(self-injectable epinephrine). When working outside, carry a cellular phone in
case you need emergency medical help.

Don't be a bug magnet. Reduce your chance of being stung by wearing
light-coloured clothes such as khaki, beige, or blue, and long sleeved shirts
and long pants. Wear footwear to protect against bees and wasps attacking your
bare or sandaled feet. Avoid wearing scented, perfumed products, and make sure
the insects can't hide or get tangled in your hair, or in the folds of clothing
and towels. Be aware that insect repellent ("bug spray") does not affect these
stinging insects.

If you must be near bees or wasps, wear a hat with netting to cover your head,
neck and shoulders and tape your pant legs to your boots and socks, and your
sleeves to your gloves.

In the event of a sting...

Try removing the sting right away (the venom can still be injected for up to a
minute afterwards) by scraping sideways with your fingernail or a credit card,
at the narrow end of the sting. You might have to use tweezers if the venom sac
breaks off, leaving the sting in the skin. An application of ice (wrapped in a
towel to prevent freezing the skin), anti-itch cream and/or an antihistamine
pill can help reduce the effects of the sting.

Do not scratch a stung area. Scratching may cause a break in the skin, which
could lead to an infection.

If you or a co-worker is stung in the eyes, nose or throat, or exhibit any sign
of a reaction to a sting, call emergency medical services right away, even if
you're not sure.

If you have experienced a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting in the
past, expect a similar or worse reaction the next time. Ask your doctor to
prescribe a bee sting kit and carry it with you at all times. If you are
hypersensitive to stings, you should also wear a medical alert bracelet.

If you are ever stung multiple times, talk to your doctor; it might be wise to
monitor your health over the next few days or weeks.

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety