One of the more feared parts of spending time outdoors as the weather turns warmer are the bites and stings offered by spiders and bees/wasps. While most of these bites and stings are harmless albeit uncomfortable, it is important to know how to treat them to aid healing and limit discomfort, as well as what symptoms warrant higher care. We also want you to know some tips for avoiding spider bites and bee stings, and how to detect which bugs are most dangerous.
It is important to note that bee stings can be deadly, depending on whether you are allergic to the stings. If you find yourself with a sting, it is always a good idea to let someone else know that you have been stung, just in case you have an adverse reaction. Luckily, for the most part, stings can be avoidable. When trying to avoid bee/wasp/yellow jacket stings:
- Avoid wearing strong fragrances or highly scented beauty products, and avoid wearing brightly colored clothing. Anything that is flower-like such as scent or color will attract them to you.
- Wear shoes, many stings happen on the ground.
- Be mindful about what food and beverages you keep outdoors with you, especially at outdoor cookouts and parties. Bees are drawn to sweet beverages and foods, and will put you at a higher risk of stings.
- If a bee does come near you, try not to swat or make sudden movements. Be as still as possible until it has passed. Bees act in defense, so coming too close to a nest or swatting will trigger a defensive sting.
When attempting to avoid spider bites:
- Use insecticide
- Avoid wood and rock piles and/or dark, warm, places spiders are likely to populate
- Be aware of webs, especially low-lying ones that may not catch your eye
- When inside, shake out bedding or clothing before using, and move beds away from walls
- Plug or seal any openings to the outdoors
- Consider having certain areas of home sprayed if prevalent with spiders
The two most harmful spiders to make yourself familiar with are the Black Widow, and the Brown Recluse. Both spiders can be found in our area, though the Brown Recluse is much more common. Black Widow spiders are noted by a glossy black coloring and a red hourglass shaped marking on the underside of the female, whom are often 1.5 inches in length. Male Black Widows are smaller and exhibit spot marking on their backs. Black Widows prefer dark, dry, out of the way places. They hang in their webs only at night, so unless disturbed, bites are rather rare. Brown Recluse spiders are light brown in color and are recognizable by a darker brown violin shaped marking on their back, behind their eyes. These spiders are, as their name states, reclusive, and are most active at night. These spiders place their webs inside structures such as furniture, garages, closets, basements, building structures, etc. Again, unless touched or provoked, these spiders do not typically attack humans.
If you find yourself with a bite from a Black Widow or a Brown Recluse, call your doctor’s office right away. If you find yourself with an unknown spider bite, clean with soap and water, elevate if on an arm or leg, use cool compresses, and use over the counter medications such as Benadryl, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol for pain and inflammation. If you find yourself with a sting, first, remove the stinger. Scrape the area to extract the stinger rather than pinch – you run the risk of more venom being deposited. Next, similar to the spider bite, elevate if on an arm or leg and use cool compresses to control swelling. You can also use over the counter pain and inflammation relief, as well as antihistamines to control itching.
In the event of a sting, call 911 or head to the emergency room if:
- There is a known history of allergies or severe reactions to stings
- Swelling occurs in tongue
- There is trouble breathing, tightness of throat, trouble speaking
- Hives occur
- Feelings of dizziness or faintness
In the event of a spider bite, call 911 or head to the emergency room if you have:
- Trouble breathing or swallowing, or have wheezing and hoarseness
- Intense stomach pain or cramps
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
- Rash or hives
- Sever itching, cramping, or even numbness
- Facial swelling in areas of mouth (lips/tongue/throat) or eyes
If you believe you have received a sting or bite and are experiencing non emergent symptoms and would like a medical opinion, reach out to your primary care provider. If you are a member of VIP Medical Services, feel free to send Dr. Holt a text or email with your symptoms (if it is outside of office hours), and he will be happy to advise your next course of action. If you are looking for a new Primary Care Provider, consider making VIP Medical Services your healthcare home! 417-485-4847