When it comes to avoiding bee stings, knowing how these insects operate can put you well ahead of the curve. "Bees are attracted to sweet scents, so it's important to avoid wearing any type of sweet perfume or leaving any type of sweet sugary food outside that's uncovered or unwrapped," Dr. Glatter explains. And if you are going to tempt fate with a sugary outdoor drink, make sure it's one that gives you visibility into what you're drinking. "I had a patient many years ago who drank a swig of soda from a can, and came in saying she had the worst pain in the middle of her chest—turns out she had swallowed a bee," says Dr. Glatter. "Luckily she didn't have her airway compromised, but she did require steroids. Check your drinks, and don't ever leave a can open at a barbecue or picnic outside—bees love these things!"
If there's a bee in your immediate area, vacate rather than swatting at it. "If bees are swarming don't swat them away," says Dr. Glatter. "That's what actually causes them to sting and become more aggressive. If you're in a lake or pool try to jump into water, stay still, or look for a closed space to run into but don't swat—that's just going to anger them." And in the event you do get stung, leave the area immediately. "When a bee stings you it actually releases a pheromone that attracts more bees, so once you've gotten stung you need to leave," he says.
As far as treating the sting goes, be mindful of how you remove the stinger. "I recommend scraping the stinger off using a dull object like a credit card or fingernail—don't use a tweezer to pull the stinger out, because you can cause more venom to be released by squeezing," Dr. Glatter explains. "Apply an ice pack, some hydrocortisone cream and take Benadryl to reduce itching and swelling." If you're allergic to bee stings you should always have an EpiPen on hand, which your doctor can prescribe to you.