Insect bites are nothing to trivialize. For some people, getting stung or bitten by certain insects can send them into anaphylactic shock, which is a violent reaction that can be fatal. At the first signs of stress, such as dizziness, feeling faint, drop in blood pressure, cramps, nausea, chills and fever, the person is administered epinephrine. This is available in preloaded injections by prescription.
For some hypersensitive individuals, immunotherapy is used. It gradually exposes the person to insect venom during a 20-week period, which then is followed by booster shots that last as long as five years.
“Two insects to watch out for are wasps and yellow jackets,” says Ron Smith,
North Dakota State University Extension Service horticulturist. “These two are related by the fact that both get more aggressive as the autumn wears on. In addition, they have the capability of inflicting multiple stings, while a bee will sting once and die shortly after.”
Look for nests in tight places and observe any swarming around openings in the soil, woodpiles or old sheds. If you should find a yellow jacket nest, it usually is a good idea to have a professional exterminator deal with the problem.
While wasp sprays knock down the insects quickly, getting into the nest with the spray is very difficult and could be dangerous.
Generally, honeybees and bumblebees are curious about what you are, not in stinging someone. They usually will not attack unless provoked. Try not to panic if one lands on you, Smith advises. If you cannot stand having the bee on your skin, gently blow it off or brush it away.
“No such courtesy exists with yellow jackets and wasps,” Smith says. “They usually sting first and ask questions later.”
For those drinking soda pop out of a can, the sweet fragrance and moisture of these drinks will attract yellow jackets at this time of year. They may crawl right into the can. Open beer cans or bottles are fair game as well.
“I can imagine how painful a sting on the tongue, cheek or throat would be,” Smith says.
To cut down on the localized pain of a bite, apply a baking soda paste or rub ice cubes over the affected area. With multiple stings that one would get from stirring up a yellow jacket nest, take a cool baking soda bath and use an anti-itch lotion such as hydrocortisone.
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