As Iowa’s weather cools, bees and wasps become much more active as they scavenge for food until the first freeze. Joan McVoy, a registered nurse and poison center information specialist, says the hotline has gotten several calls about stings in recent weeks.
McVoy says if you see a bee or a wasp, don’t run or start swinging. "Just doing quick movements provokes the wasp and they have a tendency to come back at you," she says. "They’re very aggressive and they’ll try to sting you. If you are eating outdoors, keep your food covered, especially soda and fruit. With pop, if it’s in a can and you turn away and aren’t looking, make sure to check it before swallowing because we’ve had cases where people have come back to their soda can and they take a swallow of the pop and they get stung in the mouth or the throat and that can be really serious when that happens."
McVoy says if you do get stung, don’t panic. "Bees will leave a stinger but the yellow jackets that are out this time of year are not barbed so when they sting you, they can sting you several times and that’s common," she says. "If you do see a stinger, that is a different kind of a bee. Make sure you don’t pull that out with a tweezers because when you do, you squeeze the venom sack and you get more venom in your skin. Scrape it off if you see a stinger. Otherwise, you want to keep that area clean with soap and water."
McVoy says after you clean the area, watch for symptoms of illness and call the Poison Control hotline. "Put an ice compress or cold compress on it for 10 to 15 minutes. What we watch for, in the first hour of a bee sting, are symptoms we are really concerned about, itching, wheezing, these people feel faint or confused, their airway closes up," she says. "A nurse will call them back in an hour after a bee sting to make sure they are doing okay."
If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure you see a doctor immediately. She says there could also be a delayed reaction in 10 to 14 days after the sting. Symptoms include fever, hives, headache or itching. The number for the Iowa Statewide Poison Control Center is 800-222-1222.