By Shelley Grieshop
Insect stings are not only painful, they can create nasty infections that necessitate antibiotics to recover.
Mercer County Community Hospital in Coldwater recently has seen an increase in the number of patients who have developed infections after a stinging encounter.
"We've had about a half dozen people develop cellulitis (an inflammation of the skin cells) from their bee stings," said Marilyn Napier, a registered nurse and director of the emergency room department. "That's really unusual."
Cellulitis isn't common after a bee or wasp sting, and health professionals contacted by The Daily Standard could not explain why it's occurring this year.
Late summer and early fall are peak times for stings from bees, wasps and other flying insects, because populations are at their height. Napier said the Coldwater hospital is averaging about one patient a day from insect bites. Officials at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, reported average numbers. Napier, who resides in Indiana, said she and her husband had their own brush with bees Wednesday night after spotting a nest under one of the eaves of their home.
"My husband used a sweeper to gather them up," she said. "He counted 235 of them."
The infection rate per bee sting patient has hospital officials puzzled. One of the nurses on staff even developed minor complications, Napier said.
Eight million people (about 1 in 30) have allergic reactions to insect stings each year. About 50 people die annually after being stung, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
Only bees leave stingers behind, others keep theirs intact. Stingers should be removed immediately; do not pinch them or toxins will be released into the skin, entomologists say.
Other advice: avoid the insects' nests. Do not swat at the pesky bugs either, it only makes you more of a target. Avoid bright-colored clothing (loose clothing can trap insects) and heavy perfumes.
Health professionals advise sting victims to elevate the affected region and apply ice to reduce swelling. Over-the-counter products like Calamine lotion help; gently clean blisters to prevent infection. A physician should be contacted if swelling progresses or an infection develops.