Yellow Jacket Stings

The recent food changes and eating challenges have been dominating my blog for the past several days, but the most noteworthy event I haven’t mentioned is that I got stung by three yellow jackets while mowing the lawn Sunday afternoon. I’m allergic to bees, but yellow jackets are actually in the wasp family and have a different type of venom, which is a relief because I was spared from a dangerous allergic reaction. However, this is not to say I had no reaction.

Yellow jackets nest in the ground, and as I passed over them with the lawnmower, I disturbed their colony. Several swarmed around me. I smacked the one that landed on my tricep, effectively killing it before the sting got too severe. The stinger came out as I swiped the insect off me. This reduces the length of time the venom sack entered my body. Resultantly, the welt isn’t much worse than a bad horsefly bite, albeit hotter and itchier.

Unfortunately, while my body’s instinct was to deal with the wasp on my arm, two additional yellow jackets pierced my Achilles’ tendon area. By the time I extracted one stubborn stinger, the venom had infiltrated my ankle skin. Although I did not suffer any systemic allergic reaction (anaphylaxis, hives, fever, etc.), I have suffered what’s considered a “severe” local reaction, according to my doctor’s appraisal of the photo I uploaded to my patient portal.

At first, the ankle area hurt and burned where I was stung. As the hours went on, it got hot and swollen. I washed the area in the shower, and then iced the area and applied antibiotic ointment afterward. By bedtime, it was quite sore, but I took one ibuprofen to help with the discomfort and swelling.

When I woke up yesterday, the swelling and redness were much more noticeable. As I described to Ben, there was so much fluid trapped under the skin that my lower leg bounced when I walked like a bra-less breast! It’s an unnerving feeling and one that makes ignoring the stings difficult. The pain and heat continued to worsen, so I uploaded the photo to my patient portal and asked for home remedy advice. I was advised to seek urgent care help if I was very concerned. However, he said that because I just recently got a tetanus shot (in October when I was bit by a dog) and wasn’t feeling ill in any other way, I should be fine to treat it at home. He informed me that symptoms actually worsen for 48 hours or so, but that if they continued to go in the negative direction beyond that, I should go to urgent care. I’m still not at the 48-hour mark. As for home treatments, he said cold packs and hydrocortisone were my best bets, since it was no longer right after the sting. (I guess meat tenderizer or a baking soda paste can be effective immediately post-sting.) I applied both treatments religiously throughout the afternoon and even iced three times over the night.

The localized reaction bothered me a lot last night when I was trying to sleep. It felt like a really hot sunburn, and it throbbed incessantly. Most disruptive was the extreme itchiness; I had to employ all my faculties to not dig my nails in and scratch it raw. I wasn’t sure if covering it up with a long sock would prevent it from necessary airflow to heal more quickly, so even though I knew that would help block blankets from grazing the area and further aggregating the itchiness, I opted to keep it open and liberally apply hydrocortisone.

This morning is still in the window where it’s expected to be exacerbating. It’s definitely much itchier and more swollen, but the pain is gone. I’d say the redness has dissipated, in that the discoloration has crawled further up my calf, but it is much less red over the site. Without a medical background, it’s difficult to say whether this is an improvement or further decline.

I will continue to ice every hour or two until this afternoon and then make a more definitive decision about where I’m at with it. I’m really hoping to avoid urgent care (and the $60 copay!). Unfortunately, this is another downside of having a primary care doctor over an hour away. This will serve is my official plea to my body: please start healing this sting and I promise we will take strides to prevent further potential encounters.

We need to destroy their in-ground colony. My mom mentioned that there are various wasp bombs to fumigate the region where they were seen. I don’t ever want this happening again! In an effort to come full circle and relate this to my food struggles, the only benefit of this yellow jacket encounter is that the sting discomfort and time-consuming home treatment has served as a distraction from any stomach distress from unaccustomed foods and from wandering around the kitchen looking for things to eat. It’s not an even trade; these stings are no fun.

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