Bee stings – Punch Newspapers

Bee stings – Punch Newspapers

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Bees are winged insects that are closely related to ants and wasps. They occur in several different species and are best known for their role in pollination of plants. In this role, they are indispensable for the germination and propagation of many plant species. This organism is known to have four distinct life cycles of the egg, larva, pupa and adult stages and the total period of development is nothing short of miraculous.

The life cycle is about 24 days for drones, 21 days for the worker bees and 16 days for the queen bees. A typical honey bee colony consists of three types of adult bees which are led by a queen, workers and drones. The worker bees cooperate in their thousands to collect food, build their nest and rear their offspring. Bees are of several different types and these are mostly honey bees, bumble bees, stingless bees, carpenter bees, long-horned bees and orchid bees. There are at least two other types but we shall concentrate on one or two species for the purpose of this essay. And that will be mostly to demonstrate that as useful as these insects are to the continued propagation of many different plant species, they can also be deadly to much larger organisms especially when they launch mass attacks.

The queen bee is the only female member of the colony to reproduce and they grow into enormous sizes compared to the rest of the population. All the worker bees are female while all the drone bees are males, and these usually fly off to mate with other young queens to start other colonies. On the whole, the life span of a bee is about one month. The one most often relevant to humans is the honey bee because of the nature of its produce, which is attractive to man due to its uniqueness as a sweetener, a food and drink additive and a medicine. In the last three decades or so, it has also found its way into hospitals as a dressing agent for wounds. As a result, it is reasonable to see how man would often come into conflict with this insect in his bid to harvest the honey. Honey bees, are known to swarm their target in thousands to simultaneously attack, injecting them with a devastating amount of venom. This deadly insect is known for its gruesome attacks, going for the eyes and filling the victim’s nostrils, ears, and mouths. When being attacked, one should run several hundreds of meters to escape the stinger onslaught.

 The reasons why bee stings are deadly is due to their ability to jab a barbed stinger into their target’s skin to sting them. It is thought that the explanation that bee sting venom is deadly is because it is composed of proteins that affect skin cells and trigger the immune system, leading to very large swellings at the sting sites or the whole portion of the body involved in the attack. Bees have been known to follow a finger which harvests their honey right into the person’s mouth if he feels brave enough to taste the natural honey right there at the hive. The major chemical responsible for this is Melittin, which stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin resulting in an uncomfortable sensation that starts as sharp pain and lasts for a couple of minutes before it becomes a dull ache. The pricked tissue may still be sensitive to touch even a few days later according to studies conducted by The Mayo Clinic. Some of the symptoms of bee stings may include swelling in the throat, lips, tongue, and mouth. It can also cause rapid heart rate, severe decrease in blood pressure, difficulty with breathing, and therefore, make one collapse.

 Moreover, bee stings irritate the skin, hence the itching, swelling, and painful sensation. It could also cause abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting. Many people would ultimately survive a bee sting, but it can be deadly if you are allergic to the bee sting or bee venom or to any of the protein substances that are found in the venom. Bee stings could cause anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur within a few seconds or minutes of exposure to something you are allergic to. An individual is described as being allergic to bee stings when there is itching, hives or swelling over a large part of the body after being stung. The face, throat or tongue may also start to swell and can therefore threaten their ability to breathe or swallow or talk. The person may be wheezing, have trouble breathing or experience hoarseness. It is these changes it can cause to the breathing mechanism and the mouth, throat and neck that we use in making those movements possible, that ultimately pose the greatest dangers to life.

 Honey bee stingers usually remain in the skin when the bee detaches itself because it is barbed. It is recommended that the person who is stung should immediately begin to remove the stinger with their finger nails because the venom continues to enter the skin from it for about 45 to 60 seconds following the sting. Wash the site after using soap and water, then apply a cold compress to alleviate the pain. An aerosol or a cream with antihistamine such as Antisan cream or Eurax may also help. It is difficult to picture a situation in which any of these medications would be readily available to the majority of our people that are most likely to be exposed to attacks of this nature. This is so because these folks are most likely to be farmers. Therefore, it is best to seek medical attention immediately when the sting is in the neck or mouth. In countries like Rwanda, where ambulances are attached to farm settlements, such victims of massive bee stings can be reached by trained healthcare practitioners within a short period in which such help is critical to save life and deliver the required medications. In that situation, it is often the case that further observation of the affected individual can continue in a hospital for as long as is needed.

 In our native Nigeria, such persons are usually far from any immediate help because of our terrain. Indeed, farmlands are likely to be as far from any hospital as can be imagined. The primitive nature of our emergency response system, which is urban based where available, will be of no consequence in a situation like this. As a result, just like it often is for victims of snake bite, the journey to a hospital could take many hours or even days by which time some of the people who would have survived would have succumbed to the effects of the attack.  Even in our towns and villages where this kind of attack can often happen, there is neither readily available water nor electricity to guarantee the availability of cold water with which the desired cold compress is made. In the circumstances, many victims know a few things to do which is to rapidly take commonly available pain relievers like paracetamol to deal with the pain which is sure to ensue and also to help reduce the associated swelling. This can be followed up with other local measures such as the elevation of an arm or a leg if these are the body parts targeted during the attack.

Questions and answers

Dear doctor, what exactly is the major cause of prostate growth in men and how can it be avoided or prevented? God bless you sir.  0703xxxxxxx     

The prostate is a gland found somewhere underneath the bladder. It is found only in males. There is a progressive increase in size throughout life. This is especially so from about the age of 50 years. In some people, it can begin sooner than that by a few years while in others, it can happen later. In the final analysis, the rate of growth of that organ is vastly different in different people. So here is your answer. It is not something you can avoid or prevent by taking a vaccine or something like that. It is a fact of life. However, the rate of enlargement of the prostate varies between different men and while it may be rapid in some, it is much slower in others.

Dear doctor, I am a 61 year old woman and about three months ago, I felt something like a boil in the upper part of my back. It was not painful even when I squeezed it. But I am able to squeeze out some smelly substance after which the size reduces and then it starts growing again. I hope this is not cancer and I am worried. Please help me. Thank you very much.  0909xxxxxxx

 The growth which you described above seems to me to be what is known as a sebaceous cyst. This is typically a swelling that results when the skin in that area is unable to expel its sweat, sebum and oils as a result of a blocked pore. All those materials then gather together and create a cavity which force their way out occasionally through an exit passage or when you help it by creating a pressure to do likewise. Typically, this kind of thing does no more than cause irritation and you can safely ignore it. However, if you are concerned about it, you should see a doctor for confirmation and their opinion. Occasionally, if it is located at a part of your back where it makes it unwise for you to wear certain clothes, you could choose to have it removed for cosmetic considerations.

Dear doctor. I have been married for eight years now and in all that time, I have been pregnant two times. The first time ended in a miscarriage and the second time the baby died in the womb before birth. Recently, about two weeks ago, my doctor asked me to do an endocervical swab for culture because of a type of discharge I was having. When the result came out, he said there was an infection and that I should use two different types of antibiotics after which another test will be done later to see if it has been cleared. Then he also said that my husband should take the same medicine. But he does not have any symptoms. Why should he take the medicine? Kindly answer because I don’t want anything that will affect his sperm count.     0813xxxxxxx  

Well, your doctor would have told you that these antibiotics which you did not mention are not able to damage your sperms to the extent that the count will reduce. It is also not likely that he would give your husband a medication that will cause such harm. To put it properly, a vaginal infection in a wife or partner is often treated by also having the sexual partner(s) treated and that is wife, girlfriend and concubine as the case may be or the male partners of the woman in question. It is a sensible approach to take so that every reasonable avenue for the perpetuation of the infection can be removed.

Dear doctor, thank you for the fine work. I had a period first week in March and I am having another one just three weeks after. Could it be due to the hot weather? I am also having heart palpitations. Could that be as a result of too much caffeinated coffee? I am 30 years old. Thanks. 0809xxxxxxx    

A lot of drinking of caffeinated coffee could cause you to have palpitations but should not affect your periods in any fundamental way. Certainly, weather and the changes it often undergoes cannot affect your periods in any way. It is better for you to see a doctor for a thorough examination so that your thyroid gland can also be examined both clinically and by various tests. A disease of that particular gland can cause you all of the symptoms you mentioned in your question.

Dear doctor, your job is well done sir. I am a lady in my late 30s who is still trying to conceive. It is too dry in my vagina for my husband to penetrate and when we are having fun, I don’t feel him, and when he decides to raise my legs up, I feel pain in my abdomen. What can I do to enjoy sex? What do I do to always feel him and for vaginal dryness? Thank you sir. 0803xxxxxxx

I do not really know why you have this problem at your age but hormonal changes can play a role as well as problems like lack of desire for sex or some kind of anxiety related to having sex. If you are on certain types of medications, that can also be the cause but most importantly, it is important to know if this is a recent development or it has been an issue with you. If you are on an anti-allergy medication for example, like a Piriton or Phenergan or Loratadine, it can have a drying effect on the vagina. Additionally, inadequate arousal may be responsible for a dry vagina as well but in the interim, you can make use of normal lubricants to ease penetration. You can use K-Y Jelly, Vaseline or olive oil until you are able to adjust to your situation.

Dear doctor, what are the benefits of cloves sir and what are the downsides too? Thank you. [email protected]                          

Well, basically, cloves are rich in antioxidants. They are spices and nice food additives. When consumed, they are beneficial to the eyes and skin and therefore, give women a healthy, youthful appearance when added to their beauty products. It is also said to be beneficial for the treatment of common cold for which people may add it to their tea or use it as an additive for steam inhalation. It is also claimed to help in controlling blood sugar and in helping with erections in males. If you add it to your tea, you can add up to 4 or 5 and if you want to chew it raw, it is sufficient to take two in the morning and two at night.

Dear doctor, my baby is six months old now and has been passing watery stools for the past 10 days. He can pass stool up to eight times a day and has lost some weight. I went to the hospital and some tests were done and I was told it was an infection. They then placed the baby on Zinnat syrup and Zinc tablets. The stooling has not stopped but has reduced to about five times a day. What do I do now and how do you think I can prevent this from happening again? I try to keep all her feeding materials clean and I do not understand this sir because I am a first-time mother and I am not really getting an explanation from the doctor.                0803xxxxxxx

Thank you very much for your question. Your son probably has the kind of diarrhoea that is caused by a virus. That is the most common cause of diarrhoea and vomiting in children under five years. So it is not compulsory that the use of the Zinnat would simply stop the stools. For one, it may have been prescribed to prevent a bacterial infection from taking advantage of his current situation or it may have been prescribed for his use because there was evidence already of such a bacterial infection particularly from the blood tests. Whatever was the reason for prescribing it, however, it is important that your baby sees a paediatrician for a more thorough assessment of her ailment so that the appropriate treatment can be given.

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