Where there are children and summer fun, there will be bee stings. Although the stings can be dangerous to allergy sufferers, for most there will be nothing more than a little discomfort and an important lesson about the need to respect all of nature’s creatures.
Bees are not naturally aggressive. In fact, since the stinger of a bee pulls out of the bee’s body, causing it to die, bees would rather not cross your path. Hornets and wasps are actually much more dangerous since they can survive repeatedly stinging and can be very aggressive in the late summer.
Teaching children not to swat at bees or molest their homes is the best prevention. Sitting in a garden full of bees is perfectly safe when one watches where one sits and avoids panicked flailing or running through clouds of bees, forcing them to defend themselves and their fellows. If bees appear, walk quietly away. If you hit one, all will come after you.
How you dress your children is important for safety too. Bees are more likely to sting people wearing dark clothing who are heavily perfumed or whose clothing reeks of sweat. Think light colored and clean for bee-proof clothing.
If you or your children are stung, scrape off the stinger with a fingernail. The venom is pumped into the wound even after the bee is dead and attempts to pull the stinger out trigger the release of more poison, so scrape, don’t pull.
Bee venom is a protein and the common household product, Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer, contains an enzyme called Papain that can destroy the protein based venom, rendering it less toxic. This safe chemical, which is also found in unripe papayas, has been used by generations of cooks to soften tough meat and soothe upset stomachs.
After the stinger has been scraped off and some meat tenderizer applied to destroy the venom, ice down the wound to reduce pain and swelling. Keep a close eye on your child to make sure that no signs of allergic reaction such as difficulty in breathing occur. If this happens, you should take your child to a doctor or emergency room pronto as this can be serious, even life threatening. A few dozen people die of bee stings each year in the United States. Repeated exposure to allergens can create sensitivity where none existed before, so don’t assume that all is well just because no problems cropped up in the past.