A month ago, I was half way through a four-mile trail run when a yellow jacket plunged its venomous stinger deep into my left calf.

For those not allergic to bees, merckmanuals.com suggests the following three steps be taken immediately following a bee sting: remove the stinger with a dull-edged object; apply a cool compress; and elevate the area.


As honeybees are the only bees that leave a stinger behind, there was no stinger to remove.

But, with two miles left to run, I was in no position to apply a compress or elevate my leg. On the contrary, the running seemed to exaggerate the effect of the sting, with each step delivering a sharp, burning sensation through my lower leg.

By the time I returned to the car, my calf was swollen and red, the muscle achy, rock hard, and hot to the touch.

At home, I washed the wound with soap and water, administered the recommended three-step treatment, and slathered the area with hydrocortisone cream. But this bit of TLC in no way spared me from the intense itching that followed and the rough, blistered skin in the days to come.

Sherri Leimkuhler: Battling the bees on the trail

But, until two weeks ago, I had never been stung while running. Alas, there is a first time for everything.

A week later, when the swelling and itching had finally subsided and the angry, reddened skin had faded to light pink, I met up with 10 other runners to tackle a five-mile trail and, in true déjà vu fashion, I was two miles in when I was stung again — in the same exact spot, but on the opposite leg.

I felt the sharp, telltale sting and blindly swatted at my leg, with each swipe of my hand delivering a fresh zap of pain. I stepped off the trail to have a closer look and confirmed that, once again, no stinger remained, only the raised, white circle and fresh, pulsing pain.

Thankfully, this second sting was slightly less intense than the first, and the symptoms had mostly subsided within four days.

Luckily for me, I am not allergic to bees.

But, according to slate.com, these aggressive, flying wasps “sting thousands of Americans every year, killing up to 100 people through anaphylactic shock.”

While mild symptoms of a bee sting include pain, itching, redness and swelling around the site of the sting, hives, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fainting, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and swelling of the throat, face and lips, are symptoms of bee poisoning that require immediate medical attention.

“If you’re experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as trouble breathing or difficulty swallowing, call 911,” healthline.com recommends. “You should also seek medical help if you have a known allergy to bee stings or if you have had multiple bee stings.”

It’s also important to remember that bees are especially aggressive in the late summer and early fall, and while running alone is never advisable, it’s an especially bad idea to hit the trails solo if you are allergic to bee venom. Instead, always run with a buddy, wear an I.D. bracelet, carry epinephrine with you, and educate your friends on how to use the auto injector.

Columnist’s note: This is the second column in a two-part series about bee stings.