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Started: 2019-08-23 11:32:27

Submitted: 2019-08-23 09:49:58

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator is stung by a wasp, for the first time in thirty years, and lives to tell the tale

In our busy summer schedule, we had one weekend between camping with cousin Caleb and heading to Dublin for Worldcon. It was one of the few weekends I didn't have anything scheduled, so I tagged my calendar indicating that I'd like to be on-call. The automatic on-call schedule updater obliged, and my pager was noisy on Saturday but quiet on Sunday.

On Sunday evening, 11th August, I walked to the nearest ATM for cash, with both phones in my pocket and my laptop in my bag in case I got paged. (On my current team I have a 30-minute pager SLA, which means it's easier to go outside the house without my laptop as long as I can get to my laptop within 30 minutes of being paged.) I was around the corner from my house when I felt a stinging pain on my chest. I looked down and saw a yellow jacket trying to sting me through my t-shirt. I had apparently stumbled into its path, but I hadn't done anything obvious to provoke it. I flicked it away and it disengaged and buzzed away angrily, looping around my head and getting uncomfortably close to the back of my neck before disappearing into the suburban evening.

I stopped to take stock of the situation. When I was a kid, thirty years ago, over the period of a year or so I got stung by stinging insects on five or six times. During the last couple of stings my reaction seemed to be getting worse, so my doctor cautioned that my next sting might produce a serious systemic reaction, and the sting after that might be life-threatening. (I think we got an epi pen but never used it.) I apparently took the warning to heart and avoided stinging insects -- until now.

The sting hurt, but was not yet getting obviously red or swollen, and I didn't feel any symptoms of a systemic reaction. I continued the quest to the ATM, and when I returned to the house I told Kiesa and we studied the sting, which had begun to get red and swell, in a misshapen red blob about an inch-and-a-half in diameter. Kiesa found some Benadryl (which had technically expired) and I took that; then (in the absence of other symptoms) continued my evening and went to bed.

On Monday morning the sting still hurt and had begun to itch, so I put hydrocortisone on it. Out of an abundance of caution I decided to see if I could get a doctor's appointment at the little clinic inside my office. (This is one of the perks my employer provides, and it's rather handy when I need it.) The online scheduler indicated they had multiple appointments available for the day; I picked one at noon, after my slate of meetings in the morning.

The doctor took a look at my sting and said it looked normal. She confirmed that Benadryl (before bed) and topical hydrocortisone were the right treatments, and (in the absence of any systemic reactions -- numbness or tingling in the mouth, large-scale swelling, constricting throat or shortness of breath) confirmed that I was having a normal reaction and I didn't need to worry about it -- and that, should I get stung in the future, I should expect to have the same normal reaction. She warned that the sting was likely to get worse at 48 hours, but otherwise it was ok.

I was pleased to learn that my sting was normal. It didn't feel any better for a couple of days but at least I don't have to worry about systemic reactions to insect stings.