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Tara Kompare, Pharm.D
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D is a part-time pharmacist and full-time mother. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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The Stingers of Summer
July 2006

Summer is a season for trips to the beach, boat rides, and slippy slides. It is a time in which strong family bonds are formed, kids go barefoot, and instead of counting seashells, children get to use them as fancy decorations for their sand castles. So how is it that a fishing trip with dad can turn from joyful to painful in a matter of seconds? I would like to introduce you to two of the most popular stingers of summer: Bees and Jellyfish. Both are capable of producing a sting so painful, your child would rather promise to clean their room, and yours, every day for eternity,than deal with the pain of being stung. So, how do you get to become the “all powerful healer” in the world of parenthood where power seems unattainable? Knowledge baby. It is important to know how to prevent painful stings, what to do if they happen, and when to seek the advice of a physician.

Buzzing Bees:

Where there is play, there are likely to be bees. This is because they are attracted to the sweet morsels of food that children usually don’t leave home without.

It is hard to believe that such tiny little buzzing things can create such havoc for a family picnic. I once had to leave my lunch box at the park because hornets were swarming the half empty juice box sitting inside. Although they are supposed to be self contained units, those little boxes leak very easily. I have since learned that open container laws should be broadened to include juice boxes and pouches. We owe it to our children to take back our days of picnicking and put an end to invasions of the bee kind.


Rule #1: Do not attempt to look or smell like a flower or you are likely to be treated as such. This includes, but is not limited to, shirts stained with bananas from breakfast, lotions that smell like honeydew melon, and brightly colored shirts decorated with large bright flowers.
Rule #2: Dress your children in closed toe shoes and hats. If you know you are going to be in area that is prone to bees, it is wise to keep your children covered as much as possible without making them drip from sweat.
Rule #3: Keep all food and drink covered. If your children want juice, I would put it in sippy cups with lids. For the adults, any kind of water bottle or soda bottle with a top is good.
Rule #4: Stay still and quiet. Now don’t laugh, you really need to tell your kids to try to do this. Although my first instinct is to run like hell to the nearest shelter, it is not what the experts say to do. They say to be still, quiet, and gently blow the bee away. Good luck!
If your child gets stung, he or she will know it. You will probably hear the squeals from around the block. The most common symptoms associated with bee stings include itching, swelling, and pain. Luckily, there are over the counter remedies for all three symptoms.


Remove the Stinger: Honeybees, which are the cute fuzzy guys, usually leave their stinger in the victims skin and then buzz off and die. Now you know where the term “buzz off” came from. It is important to remove this stinger ASAP because the longer it stays in, the more pain it causes. You can use your nail or a credit card to scrape the stinger out. Make sure you don’t squeeze it since this can cause more venom to be released.
Apply ice and elevate the area for 10 to 30 minutes to help decrease swelling.
Use medication to treat the symptoms. Calamine lotion, benadryl cream, or hydrocortisone can be used to help alleviate itching. Tylenol can be used for pain. In a pinch, you can apply your deodorant to the area. It is known to help with the itching but is not as effective as over the counter creams. Another at home remedy, which is usually pretty effective, is to use one part meat tenderizer and four parts water applied to the area for no longer than 30 minutes.
When to call the doctor:

About 3% of children will have severe reactions to bee stings. If your child experiences hives, itching in areas other than where the sting occurred, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, hoarseness, or difficulty breathing and/or swallowing, you should call the doctor right away. Also, if your child is stung more than 10 times, or was stung in the mouth or nose you should call a doctor immediately.

Jiggly Jellies:

Lurking in the inviting summer seas are some not so inviting inhabitants: Jellyfish. They are fun to play with when they are on the shore, dead, because of their jiggly bodies and long, spaghetti-like tentacles. In the water, however, I do not recommend reaching out for one. Instead of a hand shake, you are likely to get a tentacle wrap. The good news about jellyfish is that they are not aggressive creatures. It is highly unlikely that a family of jellies will lye in wait for an innocent child to come along. Chances are, if your child does get stung, he or she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The best way to prevent jellyfish stings from happening is obviously to avoid coming in contact them. If you see an area with a lot of jellyfish, try to walk further down the shore to another area for swimming.
A wet suit will help protect your child but what three year old is going to want to get decked out in a wet suit in 100 degree temperatures? Better yet, what parent is going to pay for that hundred dollar wet suit?


Immediately rinse the area with salt water or no water at all. Using fresh water will make the sting worse because it causes the release of more toxin. It is also a good idea to keep the affected limb still for a while to prevent further spreading.
Carefully remove the tentacles while protecting your skin from coming in contact with them. Using forceps or protective gloves is ideal.
The best way to treat the pain is to apply white vinegar (acetic acid 5%). I know this is not something you normally pack in your beach bag but I recommend you do just that during jellyfish season, just in case.
Tylenol or Motrin can also be used for pain symptoms.
When to Call the Doctor:

If you are in Australia and your child is stung by a jellyfish, it is imperative that you seek a doctors care immediately. The box jellyfish of Australia can actually inflict a sting capable of causing death.
A child who is stung in the eyes, face, mouth, or genitals also needs to seek prompt medical care.
If your child’s symptoms worsen, or they experience difficulty breathing or swallowing you should also seek medical care.
Children are curious creatures. They will chase bees, pull off tentacles, and play catch with the left over blob of jellyfish. It is important for kids to have fun on their summer break, they just need to be taught how to do so safely, without being the victim of one of the stingers of summer.

*References available upon request.

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