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What's the BUZZ on bee stings?

Posted on May 04, 2017

We have spent all winter indoors, watching and longing for that summer world depicted in every laundry detergent commercial: an open field of green grass and wildflowers, a blue sky dominated by a shining sun and peppered by white clouds, butterflies fluttering about aimlessly, and a carefree soul running barefoot through it in slow motion.

Before you tear off your socks and shoes and set out for the nearest patch of grass, keep in mind that nature has created defenses for itself against predators and invaders, and sometimes we innocent bystanders are caught in the fray. One widespread natural defense that has become a scourge of humankind’s existence is the bee or wasp sting. 

Bees and wasps, as most people know, have tiny, needle-like protrusions commonly known as stingers. These stingers are actually sharp organs attached to a venom gland and can inject this venom into the insect’s victim. Though most people will experience little more than mild irritation and swelling as a result of this venom, some will react more harshly to stings from certain species; this is known as anaphylaxis, a serious and quick-acting allergic reaction such as rashes, swelling, trouble breathing, vomiting, and other potentially dangerous symptoms. 

Don’t worry, this does not mean that you cannot spend time outside. Whether you experience serious reactions or are simply fed up with the nuisance of insect stings, there are precautions you can take to help prevent this.

  • Wear closed-toe shoes when outdoors. Yes, I know, we all love our sandals and flip-flops when the weather is warm, but they do increase your risk of insects getting trapped in the straps of your footwear and taking its revenge on your feet. Keep in mind your environment when selecting your footwear and be cautious.
  • Keep food and beverages covered when outdoors. Bees and other insects love sweet tasting and smelling things, and this will unwittingly attract them.
  • Avoid bright patterns, perfumes, and scented hair products. Though we all want to look and smell like a rose, it’s those flower-like bright colors and scents that are more likely to bring a bee around looking to pollinate you (and no amount of awkward conversation will deter it).
  • Avoid woodpiles and rotten logs. These are lovely places for bees to nest, and they often will do so.
  • Call in an exterminator to remove live nests and hives you find around your house and yard.
  • If you experience severe or anaphylactic reactions to insect stings, always have immediate access to self-administering epinephrine, and discuss with your allergist or physician if venom injections would be right for you. For many, venom injections can over time reduce the severity of the allergic reaction, and these injections can be life-saving and/or relieve the fear of outdoor activities. Always check with a professional before using any such medications or injections.

Man and beast have co-existed for thousands of years, so of course it is possible to do the same with insects. The professionals at Grand Rapids Allergy love outdoor summer fun, and their expertise will help you get out and enjoy it, too.

Grand Rapids Allergy has served the west Michigan area for over 40 years. We’re working to treat allergies at the root level with personalized treatment plans based on your unique allergy profile.

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