It is believed that bees, wasps, and hornets combined kill around 2 to 12 people a year in the UK, though the figure could be higher as some unknown sudden adult deaths could be attributed to insect stings/bites.
What causes these deaths is something called Anaphylactic Shock, where the body has a severe and life-threatening reaction to the venom of the sting. Sometimes within minutes (though it can be hours) the whole body is affected as it over reacts to the venom. Blood vessels widen causing a severe drop in blood pressure, an itchy raised rash (hives) can appear, and there is often a swelling of the tongue and throat making it very difficult for the victim to breathe.
Prevent Stings or Bites
- If you come across an insect that can sting such as a wasp or bee, try and remain calm, and move away slowly. Do not try and swat them or hit them as this can get them aggravated and increase the chance of getting stung.
- Keep skin covered by wearing long sleeves and trousers, and don’t walk around outside barefooted.
- Apply insect repellent to exposed skin. The ones that contain 50% DEET (diethyltoluamide) are the most effective.
- Avoid using strong perfumes, deodorants, soaps and shampoos.
- Be especially careful around outside bins, and areas where food and drink is served outside such as pub gardens or BBQ’s. These can be hotspots for wasps especially.
EMERGENCY MEDICAL HELP
Always seek emergency medical help (dial 999 or get to a hospital) if you or anyone else gets stung and begins experiencing any of the following symptoms –
- Wheezing or difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the throat, mouth or face.
- Difficulty in swallowing.
- A fast heart rate
- Dizziness, feeling faint, or sick.
- Loss of consciousness.
You should also phone for medical advice (dial 111) or visit your doctor if –
- Your worried about a sting or bite
- Your symptoms do not improve within a day or two.
- You have been stung or bitten on your throat or inside your mouth, or near your eyes.
- The sting becomes red and swollen, or begins to look infected such as containing pus.
- You become unwell such as developing a high temperature, swollen glands, or just generally unwell.
DIY Sting or Bite Care
- Remove the sting as fast as you can if it has been left in you, such as can be the case with a bee sting, as it will continue to pump poison into your body.
- Wash the sting area with soap and water.
- If any swelling occurs, use a cold compress such as an ice pack or even a bag of frozen peas! Keeping it applied for at least 10 minutes.
- Elevate or raise the affected area to help minimise swelling.
- Do not scratch the area as it can lead to serious infections.
- Ask your pharmacist for any medicines that can help, such as antihistamines to reduce the itching, sting relief creams and painkillers.