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Survive This: Swarming Wasps

Forget all the rules about freezing or making yourself big. When faced with these angry beasts run for cover.
Backpacker_Magazine_swarming_WaspsIllustration by Andy Potts

Predicament You’re climbing over a log when your boot crunches into a wasp nest. Instantly, you’re surrounded by buzzing, angry insects.

Lifeline For once, running like hell is the right plan. Pull up your hood—if you’re lucky enough to have one—and sprint for the nearest dense vegetation. Lay on your stomach with your hands over your face. If there’s no cover nearby, keep running until the swarm subsides.

When the wasps lose interest, check yourself: Even if you’re not allergic, multiple stings can cause severe pain, swelling, and itching. Apply a cold pack or chilled water bladder to the worst areas and take an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to reduce swelling.

If you’re allergic, a serious anaphylactic reaction can occur within 15 minutes. "Take an oral antihistamine–even before a reaction starts," says Tod Schimelpfenig, curriculum director at the Wilderness Medicine Institute. If your condition worsens–difficulty breathing, tightness of chest, dizziness, or swelling throat–inject epinephrine (prescription required) into the outside of your thigh. Lie down, treat for shock, and seek medical help. Keep another epi dose ready.

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