June 13 2006
Contact: Tom Capezzuto
UMDNJ Allergist Warns Those with Venom Allergies:
Bee-Ware of Pesky Stinging Insects During Summertime Activities
NEWARK—Whether you bike or horseback ride, swim, jog or picnic in your back yard this summer, you will undoubtedly encounter a host of potentially harmful flying insects.
Painful bee or wasp stings may be treated with ice or corticosteroid cream, unless you have an allergy to bee venom, says Dr. Leonard Bielory, director of the Asthma and Allergy Research Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.
Anyone with severe venom allergies may face a life-threatening situation if they are not administered epinephrine quickly following a sting or bite, Dr. Bielory said. If you have a severe venom allergy, you should have an epi pen with you at all times, wherever you travel, should the need arise. Without it, you may face a life-threatening allergic reaction from a venomous sting or bite, better known as anaphylactic shock.
Those who are affected by anaphylactic shock will encounter sudden swelling of the tongue, lips or throat that may escalate into a life-threatening situation requiring a visit to a hospital emergency room, Dr. Bielory explained. But emergency medical kits are equipped with self-injectable epinephrine to quickly quell anaphylaxis.
A wide variety of stinging bees and wasps, including yellow jackets, are everywhere during summer weather at beaches, lakes and other bodies of water, by ballfields and in back yards. Horse flies are large black flies that are attracted to anyone wet from sweat or the water, and may bite repeatedly but pose no health hazards. Move slowly away from them and refrain from swatting at them.
But yellow jackets, which are more prevalent in the fall, are also summertime pests that can and will sting repeatedly, often unprovoked, and typically hang around garbage cans and picnic food. Avoid areas where they are present and avoid wearing perfume and cologne or bright-colored clothing, Dr. Bielory said.
If you notice a nest, do not attempt to extinguish or remove it, especially in daylight when bees are at full strength and will attack. Although they tend to be dormant at night, they will attack when disturbed. Therefore, it is best to hire a trained exterminator to destroy any unwanted hives or nests.
Avoid exposing all food and beverages at picnics. Keep food and drinks covered prior to eating. And do not wear brightly colored clothing, as well as sweet-scented perfumes, colognes, after-shave lotions and sunscreens because insects, especially bees, will be drawn to the scents, which increase the chance of being stung.