A few weeks ago my wife called from upstairs. There was an unusual urgency to her voice. When I found her, I understood.
She had been stung by a bald-faced hornet. It got her right by her eye, and her face swelled up immediately. Within minutes, hives covered much of her body.
Linda has been stung before, but she never had such a reaction. So it was off to the emergency room. Rather be safe than sorry. After about seven hours of treatment, the symptoms subsided, and we returned home with a prescription for an EpiPen, which contains a single dose of epinephrine in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.
It's that time of year. Honey bees, wasps and hornets are active, and soon yellow jackets will be protecting underground nests from marauding lawn mowers.
Sooner or later, everyone gets stung.
The best treatment is prevention. If there's a hornet nest or bee swarm near a porch or sidewalk, call a bee keeper or pest control specialist to remove the problem. Most bee keepers will happily remove a swarm for free, and money spent removing a hornet nest is money well spent. It sure beats a visit to the emergency room.
Sometimes, however, stings just happen so it's best to be prepared. I've been stung while driving with my arm resting on the open car window.
The American Red Cross reports that most insect stings are not serious and can be easily treated. But severe allergic reactions can be deadly.
Begin treatment as soon as possible by cleaning the wound with soap and water. If the culprit was a honey bee, the stinger may still be attached to the wound because honey bee stingers are barbed. Remove it carefully by scraping with a credit card or fingernail. Do not squeeze the stinger with a tweezers or fingers. That will only inject more venom into the wound.
After cleaning the wound to prevent infection, cover it with a washcloth and apply a cold pack or cold, wet washcloth to reduce swelling.
Watch for signs of an allergic reaction over the next 72 hours. Visit a physician if wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat or chest, swelling of the lips, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, nausea or a rash or swelling around the sting site persists. In most cases, these symptoms will not occur.
Biologist, author and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 9-11 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 AM WVLY (Wheeling) and noon-2 p.m. Sundays on 1360 AM WMNY (Pittsburgh). He can be reached at scottshalaway.googlepages.com and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.