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The Top 7 Summer Health Hazards

Beach days and BBQ dinners are great, but here's what you need to know to stay safe in summer, too.

7. Summertime Stings

You're out for a pleasant day of working in the yard and you dig up a hornet's nest -- literally. For most people, a bee or wasp sting is just painful, but for a few, it can be life-threatening.  You may not know you're one of them until after you've been stung -- sometimes more than once. Three in 100 adults in the United States -- or nearly 7 million people -- have life-threatening allergies to insect stings, according to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

To stay free of bees (and other stinging insects, including mosquitoes) when outdoors, avoid heavy perfumes and scents (especially florals), wear light-colored clothing with no floral patterns (stinging insects are attracted to dark colors and flowers), and guard food and sugary drinks like sodas. Most people who get stung will just have pain, tenderness, itchiness, and swelling at the sting site. But see a doctor or go to the ER immediately when you have:

  • Hives, itchiness, and swelling over large areas of your body
  • Tightness in the chest or trouble breathing
  • Swelling of the tongue or face
  • Dizziness or feeling you will pass out

Stanton advises keeping an epinephrine auto-injector with you. The pen holds a prescription medication designed to treat severe allergic reactions by tightening the blood vessels and relaxing the airway muscles. One quick jab to the thigh helps slow down a life-threatening allergic response.

But don't assume that using the pen is enough. "In the vast majority of people, the reaction will outlast the pen, so once you've used it, you should still go to the ER for observation or further treatment," Stanton says. "The pen buys time."

To treat a milder reaction, take acetaminophen for the pain and an antihistamine for hives and swelling. (This works for mild reactions to mosquito bites as well.) "Icing the wound can help too," Stanton says.

Reviewed on May 16, 2011

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