As the summer draws to a close, back to school isn’t the only thing we start to dread (or maybe relish...depending on how your summer with kids went). It’s also wasp season. Come August, the wasp nests get really overcrowded, and the temperature raises by about 10 degrees. A bit like ourselves, wasps aren’t really into hanging out in hot, cramped, sweaty places, so head out into the open. While out there, they are also aggressively looking for food given all the mouths to feed back at the nest.
This combination of things makes for a pretty cranky insect, only just too happy to take out some of its angst on some poor unsuspecting human. Wasps are particularly irritating, because they are more likely to sting if annoyed, as they can do it more than once and it's not sealing its fate like the poor bee. All of this can make taking kids anywhere that has a bin or anything sugary and sticky on offer, a little tricky.
Once you or your kids don’t have a sting allergy, stings generally aren’t dangerous, but when a kid gets stung, it can cause major drama and meltdowns, not to mention a fear of wasps, which can be a real pain.
Treating a Wasp Sting
There are a few simple steps for treating a wasp sting, and done right, your child should be right as rain after a very short time.
First things first, make sure you move your child away from the angry wasp. The chances are they have annoyed the wasp (being a parent I can sympathise with the wasp). Wasps can sting repeatedly, so may try again and again if you don’t get your child, and yourself, out of the danger zone.
Next - find the site of the sting – this should be a little puncture wound (a tiny dot) where the sting went in. This will be surrounded by a slightly raised white area. If there are more pronounced symptoms (very red surrounding area, nausea, vomiting), your child could either have a “large local reaction", or could be allergic, so you should seek medical advice immediately.
Given your child isn’t having a reaction to the wasp sting (other than potentially an emotional breakdown) you can treat it yourself.
Step One: Wash the area of the sting
Wash the area of the sting with soap and water to remove as much of the venom as you can, and to clean the surrounding area to avoid infection. On the off chance that the sting is left in the wound (which is really rare with wasps, but more common with bee stings), scrape the sting site with your nail, or remove it with a tweezers if you have one handy.
Step Two: Apply Ice to Reduce Inflammation
Apply ice to the site of the wound if the sting is swollen. Put the ice pack (or let’s face it, bag of frozen peas or whatever else you can find in your freezer because who’s organised enough to have ice, let alone an ice pack?) in a light piece of cloth (e.g. the stinky dish cloth you meant to change, that’s hanging beside the sink) so the ice doesn’t burn the child’s skin. A handy trick for an ice pack, is putting a bottle of water into the freezer – this is a good sized ice pack for medical situations like this, or to keep drinks cool on the beach (and also makes an excellent missile for throwing at/in the direction of people who are annoying you).
Step Three: Apply Ointment
Once you’ve dried the wound area, there are a number of topical ointments that can be used to ease the pain and sooth itching. There is a range of options from creams from the pharmacy, to more natural options. Some of these are:
The sting causes your body to release histamine. Histamine can stimulate nerve endings – causing pain, increase blood flow to the infected area, and cause swelling. Using an anti-histamine cream can reduce the effect of this histamine, and is easy to apply as a cream (depending on how open your child is to having cream applied. For some more dramatic children, you might as well be asking if you can pour acid on their open wound).
This will sooth the pain, and reduce inflammation. Some brands also include crotamiton which irritates the skin receptors so that they (temporarily) stop working, and so reduces the irritation.
Others contain anaesthetic benzocaine which is even more effective than crotamiton, as it stops the skin receptors from detecting pain, and so the numbing effect lasts for longer.
This lotion can offer some relief from the pain and itching from a sting. Just dab it on with cotton wool.
This can be made into a paste by just adding water, and then applied to the sting. It can also be made into a soak, and let the child put the effected area into a bowl or basin. If all of this is proving too tricky, add a few scoops of colloidal oats into a bath and throw them into it, making sure the sting gets immersed.
Due to its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, witch hazel can help ease the itching, swelling and pain.
Ironic I know – just as you take your kid out of the danger zone away from wasps or anything luring the wasps, you smear them in sticky, sweet honey. But pure honey has anti-bacterial properties, and can sooth the pain.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A wasp sting venom is alkaline, so by applying vinegar, it may neutralise the venom and reduce the pain.
They (as in the old wives of the internet) say that garlic, lemons, potatoes, onion and cucumber also work to ease the pain and inflammation of stings. They may indeed work, but I did not have a willing subject in the form of a child to test them out on (oddly enough), nor is there conclusive evidence readily available on the interweb, so I'm still on the fence. Worth a try if you have nothing else to hand – but good luck smearing these fruits and veg on an already enraged kid. Prepare to get a potato flung at your head.
Ways To Avoid Getting Stung By A Wasp
So given these angry little critters are around every corner this month, there are lots of things we can do to keep kids from getting stung (and avoid the meltdown that goes with it). Here are some of them to try:1. Don’t dress your kid head-to-toe in yellow, holding a stick of candy floss, with their hands smeared in jam.
Yellow is the favourite colour of wasps, as it reminds them of a nectar-filled flower. Any bright coloured clothes, or floral patterns can actually confuse a wasp into thinking your are in fact a flower. So basically, avoid dressing your kid like a plant.
Sugary foods are also a favourite for wasps, which is why you always see them lurking around bins and other sticky things.
2. Be careful that wasps haven’t landed on a child’s food when they are eating it – this could lead to a sting in the mouth. This can happen in particular when they are licking an ice-cream. A sting in the mouth is not only very painful, but it can be dangerous if it swells, as it could block an airway.
3. Get your kids to wear shoes when walking on grass – wasps can be lurking in the blades of grass, and they will sting immediately if stood upon.
4. Don’t let kids start swinging their arms at wasps if one is close – this will anger and scare the wasp making it more likely to sting, and it can easily get caught in a child’s clothes if they're flapping about the place, and sting them several times if trapped.
5. Encourage your children to stay still if there is a wasp around. It’s also important to lead by example – so keep your own weird little wasp phobia under wraps around the kids.
6. Don’t sit near bins, and cover the bins in your home.
7. Leave a pot of something sugary – like the end of a pot of honey or jam – outside away from your kids – this can attract the wasps and keep them busy and away from you.
8. Perfumes and colognes can attract wasps, as they get confused and think you might be sweet and tasty – so avoid them during wasp season. So like in tip #1 – don’t look like a flower – don’t smell like one either.
Be Prepared - it's going to happen
So good luck battling your way through wasp season. No matter what you do, a sting or two in the family is probably unavoidable – so it’s always an idea to have a Sting Kit to hand, containing:
- Your cream / ointment of choice
- Cotton wool
- Hand sanitiser – in case you need to quickly clean your hands before treating the sting, and there are no facilities for washing them
- Plasters – sometimes when kids can’t actually see the problem, they can calm down about it, so cover up the sting when you’ve dealt with it
- Jellies – to shove in their mouth to stop the crying or wailing….depending on how dramatic your child is
- Pain relief - just in case they are very sore
As you can see from the above photo, at some point between starting to write this blog post, and reaching the end, I decided to act like a grown up and go and source an actual ice-pack. Go me. I suspect it will last all of two days in my freezer.
Then back to the peas I go.