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Insect Stings

Summary: Which hurts worse? Bee stings or wasp stings? Actually, it all depends upon your personal chemical makeup. Personally, I think they both hurt like heck!

I love summer and I love being outside, but I don't like the thought of getting stung by a bee or wasp. What a way to ruin a day! The event hurts and the after-event can bring on faintness, sweating, nausea, headaches, swelling and a whole list of other ills, not to mention the possibility of death from anaphylactic shock. And, here I was, just out enjoying a day on the golf course.

So, which is worse? A bee sting or getting zapped by a wasp? And, what makes it hurt so much? Here's a quick lesson. One of the ingredients in bee venom is formic acid. The bee injects only a tiny, amount the size of the period at the end of this sentence. But, formic acid packs a wallop. It's the same stuff that is used in certain household lime removal products. I mean, this stuff can cause a severe skin burn, so when that little bee releases its load under your skin the reaction is hot and fast.

Honey bee venom contains almost 20 active substances including potent anti-inflammatory agents and other stuff that enhances nerve transmission and inflammation. In plain English, this are all chemicals that speed the message to your brain that something is not right and you had better get moving.

Wasps, on the other hand, release an alkali ingredient along with other chemicals. Their sting works like this. The stinger delivers the venom to your blood stream. Chemicals in the venom known as peptides and enzymes quickly break down the cell membranes, releasing the contents of the cells into your blood stream. Some of the broken cells are neurons and these particular cells send messages to your central nervous system, which in turn, speaks to your brain. Your brain reads œOuch! As if that's not bad enough, the venom contains other substances like nor-epinephrine which stops the flow of blood. As the blood flow slows the pain continues for several more minutes or until your blood stream finally carries the venom away.

Once you're stung I'm sure you would like to know what relieves the pain. Well, once again, everybody and their grandmother weighs in on this topic. Here are just a sampling of suggestions:

  •  Meat tenderizer leads the list of all time favorite cures 
  •  Tobacco is another top contender. Personally, this one never did a thing for me.
  •  Chili paste, but I could never fathom putting something œhot on top of something that hurts.
  •  Roll on deodorant
  •  Toothpaste
  •  A copper coin (I hope you live next door to a numismatist.)
  •  Mint leaves
  •  Lemons
  •  Applying pressure using a clothes peg (Good luck finding a clothes peg in this century.)
  •  Calamine lotion (At last a reasonable remedy.)
  •  Slice of raw white onion
  •  Honey (Sort of like treating with the hair of the dog that bit you.)
  •  Ice (Reducing swelling better than all the rest.)

Whatever you decide to do, don't ignore an insect sting. You really need to listen to your body and don't hesitate to seek medical help. Stop your golf game (after holing out, of course) and let your body recover.

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