Make Summer a Stunner, Avoid a Stinger

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Roper St. Francis Healthcare Offers ‘Bee’ Careful Prevention Tips and Remedies

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Summertime in the Lowcountry is unmistakenly beautiful. With more outdoor activities in full swing and the onset of an early drought, Roper St. Francis Healthcare reminds the community to be mindful of the Lowcountry inhabitants that can ruin a summer day.

Red Hot Summer Means Fire Ants
Unlike the occasional dolphin sighting, some of the Lowcountry’s other inhabitants may not always bring a rush of joy. In fact, some of the smaller ones can actually result in a rush to the emergency room. Recognizing where fire ants tend to set up shop is a good way to prepare for them and hopefully avoid them altogether. They tend to build large mounds in moist open areas such as shrubs, lawns, creek beds and field brush. Brownish to reddish in color, these ants get their name from the venom they release after the sting.

“Fire ants are present year round in the Lowcountry, but are more prevalent and active during the hot summer months,” says Jeffrey Dietrich, MD, Asthma & Allergy Consultants, LLP. “People who are allergic to these potent ants can experience anaphylaxis, a serious reaction to a fire ant sting that requires immediate medical attention.”

“Fire ant stings usually can be treated easily with hydrocortisone cream and antihistamines,” says Dr. Dietrich. “We caution patients to not scratch the sting for risk of infection. And if a patient experiences instant swelling, hives, shortness of breath, dizziness or feeling faint, we urge them to seek medical care immediately. While a sting can be an easy problem to treat for most people, in an allergic individual delaying treatment can sometimes be fatal. Patients who think they may be allergic to fire ants should have allergy testing done, and if they are found to be allergic should consider allergy shots to dramatically reduce their sensitivity and their risk from future stings.”

Jellyfish Tentacles
More jellyfish have recently been heading toward Lowcountry shores, brought closer to beach-goers by increasingly warm water. Last year, hundreds of swimmers and waders reported jellyfish stings at our Lowcountry beaches. Typically described as non-aggressive, jellyfish tentacles are, however, covered in venom-filled sacs. Localized pain is the most common reaction to a jellyfish sting, but signs of a severe reaction include changes in respiratory or heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness and fainting.

Valerie Scott, MD, FAAFP, of Mount Pleasant Family Practice says, “One of the best treatments for a jellyfish sting is to remove the sacs by scraping them with a card.” Dr. Scott also advises beach-goers to include household vinegar in their beach bags. “The acid in the vinegar counters the alkali in the sting and can help to alleviate the pain and prevents the release of more venom.”

Bee-ware of Stingers
Roper St. Francis Healthcare also encourages people to use caution with flying insects, especially the kind that sting. Wanda Brockmeyer, Director of Emergency Services, Roper St. Francis Healthcare says, “Generally, if you leave an insect alone, it will leave you alone. Sometimes, however, they can feel provoked and do sting. People who are not allergic to the sting of a flying insect will develop a local reaction – redness, swelling and pain are common.” For those people who are allergic to insect stings, just like with fire ants, anaphylaxis can occur. “It’s okay to remove the stinger with your hands or tweezers – it’s more important how fast it is removed than how it is removed,” says Brockmeyer. She also recommends applying a cold compress or cloth-covered ice to the sting site and an over-the-counter antihistamine cream, gel or stick to reduce swelling.

Roper St. Francis Healthcare facilities are conveniently located throughout the Lowcountry – West Ashley, Moncks Corner, North Charleston, Kiawah Island, downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Its physicians urge families to know the location of the nearest emergency care facility before an emergency occurs. To find the location nearest you, please visit

The Roper St. Francis Healthcare Mission:
Healing All People with Compassion, Faith and Excellence
Roper St. Francis Healthcare is the South Carolina Lowcountry’s only private, not-for-profit health care system. The 657-bed system consists of 90 facilities and services in seven counties. Member hospitals include Roper Hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital, Mount Pleasant Hospital and Roper Rehabilitation Hospital. Plans to build a hospital in Berkeley County are in progress. Roper St. Francis Physician Partners is a comprehensive network of more than 180 physicians that covers a complete range of primary care and 20 subspecialties.

With more than 5,100 employees, Roper St. Francis Healthcare is Charleston’s largest non-governmental, private employer. Its medical staff includes nearly 800 physicians representing every medical specialty. Ranked #41 among the Top 100 Integrated Health Networks in the nation, Roper St. Francis Healthcare recently earned 96 National Awards recognizing high levels of patient, physician and employee satisfaction. In October 2010, Roper St. Francis was named among Modern Healthcare’s prestigious list of “Top 100 Places to Work.” Roper St. Francis Healthcare was additionally listed among the Top 25 Connected Healthcare Systems in 2010. In 2010, the organization contributed more than 78,312 hours of staff time and $47.3 million to benefit the community, serving nearly 264,000 community residents.


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Colleen Cooney
Roper Saint Francis Healthcare
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