Wasp stings create a buzz in emergency room

Patricia Robertson hasn’t been able to enjoy a lunch in her garden this summer. Rather than relaxing and enjoying the yellow beams of sun, Robertson gets swarmed by yellowjackets.

Patricia Robertson hasn’t been able to enjoy a lunch in her garden this summer.

Rather than relaxing and enjoying the yellow beams of sun, Robertson gets swarmed by yellowjackets.

“I haven’t even been able to sit outside and eat lunch because the minute I’m there, they’re around. They’re aggressive,” she said.

The wasps have been so intrusive that they even sent Robertson to the emergency room at the Whitehorse General Hospital.

Last Thursday, she was walking her husky-lab mix, Freya, on the Millennium Trail.

“I don’t know if I passed a nest or what, but the next minute I knew there was a wasp on the back of my ankle stinging me.”

Luckily her car wasn’t parked far. She rushed home and rubbed the sting with chamomile lotion to soothe it.

That helped the pain, but only for a bit.

Her ankle began swelling the next day.

“I’m thinking, well it will just swell up then go down.”

But soon her whole foot was swollen and the puffiness crept its way up her leg, past her ankle.

“It was really puffy. I could get my sandal or shoe on, but it was very puffy and it was red and hot,” she said.

Those signs told her it was infected.

Robertson went to the emergency room at the hospital where she was treated with antibiotics through an IV, a faster method than oral pills.

The doctor in the emergency room told Robertson she was the sixth person he had seen that evening related to stings, said Robertson.

Health and insect specialists don’t know why there’s so much buzz about wasp sting complications.

“Why people are getting more serious reactions to them, I cannot explain,” said Matthias Buck, an insect specialist at the Royal Alberta Museum. His research focuses on stinging wasps.

Sharon Lazeo, acting medical health officer, hasn’t had anything reported to her about an increase in wasp sting-related infections.

Cellulitis is a common complication of wasp stings when bacteria on the skin enter the skin tissue or bloodstream through the sting.

Each summer, the emergency room sees two to eight patients a day coming in for wasp stings. It has stayed within that range this year, said Lazeo.

If there was an unusual amount of patients coming in with these problems, something would have been reported to her, she said.

But Deah Sutton, a local pharmacist, has noticed more people coming in to fill prescriptions for antibiotics that would help cure wasp sting-related infections.

The specialists blame the many stung patients on the wasp numbers this year.

Because of the fair-weather spring, the wasps were able to build up population levels.

“It’s kind of like putting your money in the bank early in your life,” said local entomologist Syd Cannings. “You get a way bigger return on things you invest early. The weather’s like an interest rate. If you get nice, dry, hot weather, the queens can really get a good start on the summer and build larger colonies and those colonies get bigger exponentially through the summer.”

With more wasps around, people are getting stung more. And the more you get stung, the more severely you react, said Lazeo.

Taking precaution is the best method, she said.

Putting tight lids on trash cans and emptying it often, wearing shoes and covering pop cans are important ways to decrease the risk of stings, states the Pest Control Canada website.

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