Bee stings are of course a common outdoor nuisance. Outdoor workers are at most risk of being stung on the job, but all workers become targets in the warmer months. In most cases, insect stings are simply annoying, and home treatment is all that’s necessary to ease the pain. But if you’re allergic to bee stings, get stung numerous times or are stung somewhere with strong blood supply, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment.
In the U.S., about 40 deaths are reported each year from insect venom anaphylaxis. The site of the sting is a factor in the severity of the reaction. Areas of the body where the skin is thin with a strong blood supply, especially the face and mouth, are more likely to swell, which can compromise the airway.
Most stings result in a minor reaction with swelling and pain that vanish within a few hours. However, your workers should be aware that a severe allergic reaction to stings is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis include skin reactions in parts of the body other than the sting area, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, a weak and rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea and dizziness or fainting.
Your employees should practice these prevention strategies to minimize their chances of insect stings:
- Take care when drinking beverages outside. Insects fly into cans and bottles – and then sting viciously when someone takes a sip. Wide, open cups are the best option because it’s easy to see what’s inside of them.
- Avoid eating sweet foods outside.
- Tightly cover food containers and trash cans.
- When driving, keep the windows rolled up.
- If a few bees are flying around, stay calm and slowly walk away from the area. Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.
- If a bee or wasp stings, or many insects start to fly around, cover your mouth and nose and quickly leave the area. When a bee stings, it releases a chemical that attracts other bees. Move to a building or closed vehicle to avoid attracting more insects.
If stung, employees should:
- Remove the stinger as soon as possible. Scrape the stinger out with the edge of a credit card or a fingernail, or use a pair of tweezers.
- Avoid squeezing the attached venom sac, which can release more venom.
- Wash the sting area with soap and water.
- Apply cold compresses to relieve pain and ease swelling.
For more information, see mayoclinic.com.