Getting stung is 1 part pain, 1 part shock, and 8 parts panic. Having a bad reaction (the type that can put you in the hospital or lead to death) is very rare. Stings hurt (some more than others - read more on the "Schmidt Pain Index"). Stings swell (some quite larger than others). And stings ITCH (this is usually the most annoying part of getting stung). See below for examples of normal/safe types of reactions and when to seek medical advice.
End of summer is sting season. Ground nesting yellowjacket wasps have very large colonies (of over 10,000 wasps!) - so imagine how many wasps you upset when you run over the underground nest with a lawnmower! Honeybees also have large colonies, and everyone is looking for food. You might find wasps and bees foraging in similar places, such as spilled sugar or rotting fruit. Foraging bees and wasps are less aggressive than the ones you'll experience coming out of a disturbed nest, but they will still sting if they feel threatened. The biggest difference between a wasp and a bee sting is that wasp stingers are not barbed, so if a wasp is stuck in your clothing, you might be stung by the same wasp multiple times. On the other hand, if you are stung by a honeybee, the stinger is barbed and it will get stuck in your skin, even after the bee tears itself apart from it and flies away (which is why honeybees die shortly after they sting). You will need to use a forceps or tweezers to remove the venom sack (which keeps pumping venom even after the bee is gone) and the stinger.
Bees, wasps, and ants are part of our natural ecosystem. we need them to pollinate our crops, turn over our soil, and eat the critters that eat our plants.
OUCH! Sometimes right after a good sting, the reaction can look like an ink blot from a Rorschach test. THAT IS NORMAL. If she really got you, she might draw a little blood and leave a tiny hole in the center of where she stung. THAT IS NORMAL. If, however, you see pieces of stinger still stuck in there, find a tweezers or forceps and get as much of it out as you can. It might not be a bad idea to disinfect the area if you see this blood spot, as trapped particles may become infected. However, if this is as bad as it gets, you're going to be ok.
Where you get stung is not as important as how much venom the wasp or bee pumps into you while you're being stung. Here are photos of neck and hand stings. I always get nervous when I "get stung in the jugular" (I like to tell that story a lot), because it seems like there should be a direct line to the bloodstream. But nope. I have had more allergic reactions when I get stung in my arm than in my neck. And getting stung in the hand hurt like the dickens, but felt fine after about an hour. Still, it looks sort of bad-ass.
Sometimes, the stung area gets swollen. The top photo was taken about an hour after the sting (notice the red dot in the center marks where the actual sting took place). If you see localized swelling around the sting, THAT IS NORMAL. If it begins to itch like nothing has ever itched before, THAT IS NORMAL. There are, however, creams and medication you can take to help you with the itching. A pharmacist suggested I use Claritin for localized reactions if I didn't want the drowsy effect of Benadryl.
For this sting I used a hydrocortizone cream. The next day, my arm was still swollen and itchy. THAT IS NORMAL. I kept using the hydrocortizone cream and putting ice on the swelling to deal with the itching. In some cases, the swelling might last a few days. In this one, it only lasted a couple days.
It's hard to see from this photo, but one day I was stung on my left arm and broke out into hives on my right hand. This is referred to as a systemic reaction and is one of the first signs of an allergic reaction. THAT IS NOT NORMAL. If you start to see bumps (they sometimes look like mosquito bites) in places away from where you were stung, here are a few things to consider.
If you don't know what to do, best to err on the side of caution and seek medical advice. Please don't call me if there is an emergency. But, feel free to email me your story after the emergency has been cleared up. I love to hear a good sting story!