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Preventing Insect Stings

Topic Overview

You can reduce your or your child's chances of being stung and having a subsequent allergic reaction by preventing or avoiding exposure to the stinging insects.

Ways to avoid stinging insects

  • Be cautious when you are outdoors, especially in areas where stinging insects may be present, such as woods, orchards, flower gardens, picnic areas, or near trash containers or old buildings.
  • When working around your home, be careful around eaves, attics, window frames, crawl spaces, and vents, where insects may nest.
  • When eating outdoors, don't put your picnic out until you are ready to eat, and repack food as soon as you are finished serving. If you attend an outdoor event, keep away from the food serving areas and trash containers.
  • Avoid scented cosmetics, deodorants, hair sprays, lotions, aftershave, and floral perfumes, which may attract stinging insects.
  • Avoid brightly colored clothing or fabrics with floral prints when you will be outdoors. Some stinging insects may be attracted to them. Clothing in a single neutral light color such as white, beige, or khaki is less attractive to stinging insects.
  • Avoid going barefoot or wearing sandals or open-toed shoes when you are outdoors. Wear closed shoes, socks, and clothes that fully cover your body. Button long sleeves, tuck long pants inside boots, and wear gloves when you are gardening. Avoid loose clothes that might entangle a biting or stinging insect. If you are at increased risk of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), have someone else do yard work.
  • Carefully unfold and inspect any clothing that has been left outdoors before putting it on or taking it indoors.
  • Keep car windows closed.
  • If a stinging insect appears, avoid sudden or rapid movements, and don't swat or flail your arms. Move away slowly unless you are being pursued.
  • Consider carrying a spray insecticide that works specifically on the types of insects that you or your child is allergic to. Read labels carefully—many general-purpose insecticides for home and garden use are not effective against common stinging insects.

Preventive measures

  • Inspect your home and yard for insect nests or places where insects may build nests. Consider having the inspection and removal done by a professional insect exterminator. Keep in mind that stinging insects are valuable in the environment, and it is generally not effective or desirable to control them over a wide area.
  • Keep trash containers closed, and clean them frequently.
  • If you have trees or shrubs with fruit, keep the area around them cleaned up. Do not allow decaying fruit to accumulated, because it may attract bees and wasps.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised January 5, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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