You probably spend more of your attention avoiding misguided cars and trucks, but there are smaller hazards flying around this time of year that are capable of inflicting serious pain: stinging insects. They’re scary-looking, determined and very aggressive if provoked.
Think of our buzzing friends as very small children: No matter what protective measures we take, they get into places they shouldn’t. When some six-legged interloper infiltrates your helmet, leathers, jacket or pants, bad things can happen.
Every rider has a story about an agitated arthropod invading his or her personal space. Such tales are amusing, but riders who are sensitive to insect venom can end up in serious trouble. Some experience an allergic or anaphylactic reaction to the sting, sometimes in very short order. See your doctor for a test if you’re not sure. Reactions vary by insect species, and the location of the sting can increase the severity of the problem. Symptoms of a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction can include feelings of anxiety, disorientation, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat or airway, hoarse/thick speech, nausea, vomiting, hives and chest pain.
Many people who have a known allergy to a given insect toxin are prepared with self-administered emergency medications like Epinephrine in the form of what’s commonly known as an EpiPen. If someone you’re riding with displays any signs or symptoms of allergic reaction after being stung, call for help immediately. Reactions to insect stings can be life-threatening, so dial 911 now!
Resist the urge to flag down a passing car and cart your friend to the nearest hospital unless you know exactly where you’re going. Paramedics carry all the necessary medications and equipment. Assist the victim with their auto-injector if they have one, and wait for the cavalry to arrive. If you ride with someone who carries self-administered emergency medication, ask them to show you how it’s used.
A rational approach to riding gear is important as well. Short sleeves are an open invitation to our pollinating friends. A full-face helmet, solid jacket, long pants, boots and gloves are a good first line of defense, but they’re no guarantee. You don’t need a suit of armor for every ride, but dressing smart and being aware of which stinging species are likely to be in the air at that time of the day or year can reduce painful human/insect contact.
Ride long enough and getting stung is inevitable. When it happens, staying calm and taking control are the keys to keeping yourself upright. That critter didn’t plan to crash-land on your leathers, but now he’s mad, and his natural reaction is to sting you. Pull over safely, doff your jacket, helmet or wherever the insect has gone and take it from there.
Thinking things through and planning ahead can help prevent your nice, relaxing motorcycle ride from turning into a panic-stricken ambulance ride.