Skip to main content

Military Health System

Taking the stings out of summer fun

Image of Beekeeper in protective gear holds framework with bees and honey.. What you should know about preventing and treating bee, wash, and hornet stings.

Recommended Content:

Vector-Borne Illnesses | Summer Safety | Public Health

Bees, with more than 25,000 species, have a critical role in nature, as well as commerce. They are responsible not just for honey, their winter food, but for pollinating food crops, as well as flowers.

Wasps and hornets are also important as they hunt down aphids, caterpillars, and other pests that destroy plants and flowers -- including crops.

Epidemiology

For many, a bee, hornet, or wasp sting is just unpleasant; but for others, it can be fatal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 1,100 people were stung from 2000 to2017; For about 62 people per year, it was fatal. The CDC reported the majority of deaths, about 80%, were males.

While estimates vary, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology estimates that insect sting allergies (includes fire ants, etc.) affect 5% of the population.

Severe Cases

Sting reactions can range from mild reactions to severe.

Bees can only sting once, but hornets and wasps can sting repeatedly. A sting's usual effect is pain, swelling, and redness around the strike area. Sometimes, more swelling will develop over a day or two. The pain may take a couple of hours to resolve.

More severe reaction can involve hives, a lot of itching, difficulty breathing, throat and tongue swelling, rapid pulse, a drop in blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and even a change or loss of consciousness, which is called anaphylactic shock.

Treatment and Response

If you're attacked by a bee, wasp or hornet, run inside or, if can't do that, go toward a shaded area.

You want to get away from where the stinging insect is and where more could congregate. Don't swat at them as that can stimulate them to sting, and you're spending your energy in the same area, not in running away.

Jumping into water may not work as some stinging insects will hover above the surface, waiting.

If you are stung by a bee, and you can see the stinger, remove the stinger using tweezers, your fingernails, or even the edge of a credit card.

Wash the affected area with soap and water to decrease risk of infection.

If you're stung on an arm or leg, elevate it to decrease throbbing swelling, and apply ice as soon as you can, which will reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.

You can put half, or even full-strength ammonia, onto the sting site. That seems to neutralize at least some of the venom.

Taking an antihistamine (e.g., diphenhydramine) can help, as can ibuprofen, and applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.

Avoid scratching the site to avoid chance of infection.

According to the CDC, individuals who know they are allergic to stings and insect bites should carry epinephrine autoinjectors into areas there may be bees, wasps or hornets.

They should also tell family members and coworkers that they are allergic and how to inject the dose.

Remember, autoinjectors expire and should be kept out of extreme temperatures. Avoid storing them in your vehicle glove compartment. You should also consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.

Prevention

Besides the obvious recommendation of avoiding flying, stinging insect, there are some other precautions you can take.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends wearing lighter color clothing that covers the body, as well avoiding perfumed soaps, deodorants, and shampoos, cologne, or perfumes. Staying away from flowering plants (where flying insects look for nectar), and any discarded food also decreases risk.

For anyone who had a severe reaction, with or without anaphylaxis, your primary care manager may refer you to an allergist to confirm your allergies and potentially start you on desensitizing immunotherapy (allergy shots). That can greatly reduce or eliminate risk of life-threatening reactions to future stings.

We need bees, wasps, and hornets, but treat them with a healthy level of respect and be prepared.

You also may be interested in...

Navy corpsman provides multitude of support to hospital

Article
1/8/2021
Two military personnel, wearing masks, in a supply room looking at the shelves

“Thinking outside the box is what makes a great person, let alone a Sailor," Tie said.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Remote monitoring program enables COVID-19 patients to recover at home

Article
1/4/2021
Image of two medical personnel, wearing masks, looking at the contents of a home-based COVID treatment kit. Click to open a larger version of the image.

The program equips COVID-19 patients needing additional monitoring with a home healthcare kit and 24/7 oversight from registered nurses to ensure a higher level of post-hospital care.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Nursing in the Military Health System

AFHSD’s GEIS collect data worldwide to support force protection

Article
12/22/2020
Medical personnel scanning forehead of soldier with thermometer

AFHSD/GEIS continue work with partners across the globe in their efforts to combat COVID-19 and protect military readiness.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Environmental Exposures | Global Health Engagement | Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military Health System encourages influenza vaccination for 2020

Article
12/21/2020
Military personnel giving patient a flu vaccine in her left arm

The CDC notes that COVID-19 seems to spread more easily than flu and causes more serious illnesses in some people.

Recommended Content:

Influenza, Northern Hemisphere | Influenza, Southern Hemisphere | Influenza Summary and Reports | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit

DOD Announces COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan

Article
12/9/2020
Soldier wearing mask, sitting in front of computer monitors

The Department prioritizes DOD personnel to receive the vaccine based on CDC guidance.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Elective surgeries resume within the San Antonio Military Health System

Article
8/25/2020
Two surgeons in an operating room

Patients whose procedures were delayed will be contacted by their surgical team or clinic.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Air Force invention kills toxins on contact

Article
8/20/2020
Image of a man in a white coat doing experiments. Click to open a larger version of the image.

An Air Force invention could be key to reducing the amount of airborne microbes...inside buildings and homes.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Health and Housing | Health and Housing

NMHM looks back at the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’ for one Maryland county

Article
8/19/2020
Black and white image of hospital beds lined up in rows, occupied by sick people

The 1918 flu resembled a more severe cold.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health | National Museum of Health and Medicine

AFHSB tracks bugs worldwide to protect service members

Article
7/29/2020
Group of people in forest gathering samples

The GEIS FVBI program supports vector and vector-borne disease surveillance projects in more than 40 countries around the world.

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance | Vector-Borne Illnesses

Innovative RX pad creates path for prescribing mobile health technology

Article
7/15/2020

Technology and healthcare are constantly evolving fields.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Public Health

Defending the Homeland: A Determined Descendant and a Navy Hospital's Response to COVID-19

Article
6/9/2020
Image of Navy captain, wearing a mask, standing next to a piece of paper on the wall

Althoff and her team at the Quality Management directorate serve as a locus of coordination for clinical support operations.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Coronavirus & the MHS Response
<< < 1 2 3 > >> 
Showing results 31 - 41 Page 3 of 3
Refine your search
Last Updated: August 18, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery