Survival Medicine: Insect Bites and Stings

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Something that a lot of us fail to think about until we are in the moment is the ramification of being bitten or stung by a not-so-friendly insect.  In most cases, such stings are annoying and painful but for the most part benign.  Sometimes, though, the toxins from insect stings can be harmful, if not deadly.  This is especially true when the receiving party, namely you or a family member, experiences an allergic reaction.

Whether it is a spider bite, a bee sting, a wasp sting, or some other insect sting, being prepared and knowing what to do should be part of your overall preparedness and wellness plan.

Today I am thrilled to bring in Backdoor Survival Contributing AuthorJoe Alton, to tell us about insect bites, and how we should deal with them in a survival situation.

Dealing with Insect Bites and Stings From Bees, Wasps & Hornets

In a survival scenario, you will see a million insects for every snake; so many, indeed, that you can expect to regularly get bitten by them. Insect bites usually cause pain with local redness, itching, and swelling but are rarely life-threatening.

The exceptions are black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, and various caterpillars and scorpions.  Many of these bites can inject toxins that could cause serious damage. Of course, we are talking about the bite itself, not disease that may be passed on by the insect.  We will discuss that subject in the section on mosquito-borne illness. In this article, we’ll talk about bees, wasps, and hornets.

Stinging insects can be annoyances, but for up to 3% of the population, they can be life-threatening. In the United States, 40-50 deaths a year are caused by hypersensitivity reactions.

For most victims, the offender will be a bee, wasp or hornet. A bee will leave its stinger in the victim, but wasps take their stingers with them and can sting again.  Even though you won’t get stung again by the same bee, they send out a scent that informs nearby bees that an attack is underway. This is especially true with Africanized bees, which are more aggressive than native bees.  Wasps and hornets (also called Vespids) can also be persistent in their pursuit of the intruder (that’s you). As such, you should leave the area immediately whether the culprit was a bee, wasp or hornet.

The best way to reduce any reaction to bee venom is to remove the bee stinger as quickly as possible. Pull it out with tweezers or, if possible, scrape it out with your fingernail or sharp-edged object. The venom sac of a bee should not be manipulated as it will inject more irritant into the victim. The longer bee stingers are allowed to remain in the body, the higher chance for a severe reaction.

Most bee and wasp stings heal with little or no treatment. For those that experience only local reactions, the following actions will be sufficient:

  • Clean the area thoroughly.
  • Remove the stinger if visible.
  • Place cold packs and anesthetic ointments to relieve discomfort and local swelling.
  • Control itching and redness with oral antihistamines such as Benadryl or Claritin.
  • Give Acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce discomfort.
  • Apply antibiotic ointments to prevent infection.

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