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Sunday, March 10, 2013

With Spring Comes Wasp Stings - Tobacco Cure?

The wasp is circled above
The other night at the Florida Strawberry Festival, my granddaughter got stung by a red wasp on the inside of her arm. She screamed in pain and at that moment, memories of my own wasp stings many years ago came flooding back. There are not many things more painful than a red wasp sting and her tears were expressing that fact.

I was trying to think quickly about what might be a good remedy for the pain and swelling. And concerns about whether or not she would be allergic were flashing across my mind as well since she has never been stung before. I thought about ice first, so my husband and I moved quickly towards the concession stands to purchase a cup of ice.

But then I remembered a story I had heard many years ago about tobacco juice. It seems the story goes that a young boy had been poking a stick at a wasp nest high up in a tree trying to knock it down when the nest fell on the back of his neck and down into his shirt. The boy was stung anywhere from 20-30 times before getting the nest out of his shirt.

He ran to a friend's house screaming and crying for help. At his friend's house, there lived an old black woman who quickly grabbed her snuff spit can and began dousing tobacco juice on the back of his neck. As gross as this sounds, this old woman more than likely saved the boys life with this home remedy. It seems that tobacco juice has the ability to draw out the venom and provide an incredible amount of relief from the pain.

Allergic reactions to wasp stings can be very serious. If you notice intense swelling in the face, throat or mouth, trouble breathing or rapid heartbeat, get medical attention immediately. This can be a life threatening situation and is called anaphylactic reaction. This serious reaction can lead to cardiac arrest and unconsciousness in less than 10 minutes and death within an hour.

If you know you are allergic to wasp stings, you should carry wasp sting medicine with you at all times. Examples of these include prescriptions for emergency epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPen or Twinject. It is also recommended that you wear a medical ID bracelet displaying your allergy to wasp stings. Most of this information would apply to bee stings as well.

Less serious reactions include pain, redness, itching and swelling at the sting sight, particularly a tiny red blister. For these less serious stings, a person can be given a dose of Benadryl or other antihistamine to counteract the affect of wasp venom. Many home remedies have been tried to help alleviate pain, itch and the swelling symptoms of a less serious reaction. These include ice, lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and tobacco juice.

Sometimes when a person is stung, you will still be able to see the stinger sticking out of the skin. This was the case with my granddaughter. It happened all so quickly. We had just left the face painting booth where she had picked out a bright blue animal print that she was so proud of. We stopped to play some games and then I remember she was walking in front of me with a huge yellow stuffed dolphin under her arm that my husband had just won for her by shooting basketball hoops.

We stopped by the restroom trailer to take a picture and then we were moving back towards the crowds and concessions. When looking back at the picture we took, we could see the wasp on the dolphin's side. All at once, she screamed and I could see something fluttering on her arm. She dropped the dolphin and she quickly pulled out of her arm a brownish/reddish stinger.

We were processing the moment, trying to decide what next to do for her, when she started crying in pain. According to NIH.GOV's Medline Plus, when removing the stinger, try not to puncture the venom bag as this could release more venom into your system. However, my granddaughter didn't wait for us to help her with that. She simply jerked it out in panic. This may have made her sting more painful.

At the concession stand, I asked the man giving us some ice if he smoked cigarettes and we explained our granddaughter's plight. He did not, but he referred us to two boys at the end of the booth who were taking a break from their work. They both dipped snuff or chewed chewing tobacco. We approached them and offered to buy a pinch, but they refused any money after they heard our story and willingly offered us a pinch of tobacco. I mixed it with a little water and made a small poultice to place directly on her sting.

Within minutes, she stopped crying and was ready for her next ride. We encouraged her to leave it on for a few minutes to do it's job of drawing out the poison. About 20 minutes was all she could wait and so we let her remove it. On the way home, she said it was starting to hurt again, so we stopped at a store and purchased a can of chewing tobacco and made another poultice to wear the rest of the way home. By the time we got home, all the symptoms of her sting were nearly gone and by today, completely gone. We were very thankful that she was not allergic and we praised her for her bravery. Getting stung is no easy thing to endure.

Many times over the years I have often wondered why tobacco even exists on this planet that the wonderful Creator made so perfect. Especially when you consider it's carcinomic affects on humans who smoke it. But, even this otherwise destructive plant has some medicinal value.