Stings from Wasps, Hornets & Bees

Being stung by a Wasp, Hornet, Bee or any other stinging insect isn’t exactly fun. It can be very painful and may result in extreme irritation and swelling that can last several days but it is extremely rare for anyone to die, even when stung multiple times. 

In France perhaps as many as 20 people a year may die following being stung, (usually it’s far fewer than that), which really is an extremely small number when compared to accidental deaths from other everyday causes. 

A normal reaction to stings will vary in intensity according to the type of sting, (Bee, Wasp or Hornet), and the individual concerned. This will result in pain, swelling and redness confined to the sting site. A large local reaction will result in swelling that extends beyond the sting site such as a sting on the arm that could result in the entire arm swelling. Although a bit scary in appearance this can usually be treated the same as a normal reaction. An unusually painful or very large local reaction may need medical attention. 

Occasionally a severe allergic reaction can occur causing symptoms such as breathing difficulties, dizziness and a swollen face or mouth. This requires immediate medical treatment and in France you should dial 15.  Below is a checklist for severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis

Wheezing or difficulty breathing

A swollen face, mouth or throat

Feeling sick or being sick

A fast heart rate

Dizziness or feeling faint

Difficulty swallowing

Loss of consciousness

Although it’s not unusual for people receive 30, 40 or more stings should they disrupt a nest and even though multiple stings aren’t necessarily life threatening they may make you feel ill and require some precautionary treatment. Special attention should be given to stings on the mouth or throat in all cases.

Once again it should be made clear that severe anaphylactic reactions are a relatively rare occurrence and there should be no need for us to be afraid of any of these insects when they are away from their nests. Even close to their nests they will rarely take an aggressive interest in humans provided the person stays calm and isn’t threatening or disruptive. If possible avoid using products with strong perfumes, such as soaps, shampoos and deodorants. Bees, wasps and hornets have a highly developed sense of smell and these scents can be disagreeable for them.

Remember - fear and panic are you enemy and flapping around only disturbs them making them sense a threat.