German teachers fined for treating wasp sting with heated fork | News | DW | 16.09.2018
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German teachers fined for treating wasp sting with heated fork

Two teachers in Germany landed themselves in hot water with their method for treating a student's wasp sting. Instead of grabbing an ice pack, the teachers heated a fork with a lighter and pressed it to the sting site.

Two teachers at a school in the western German state of Hesse were fined for causing bodily harm with their questionable home remedy for a student's wasp sting.

The incident occurred during a school trip to a youth hostel in the neighboring state of Rhineland-Palatinate in May 2017, when a 14-year-old student was stung by a wasp.

In response, a 39-year-old male teacher heated the handle of a fork with a lighter and pressed it on the boy's hand where he'd been stung. After a blister formed, another 40-year-old female teacher cut it open and treated the wound with cream.

The student's lawyer said that as a result of the sting, the boy had to wear a protective glove for a considerable period of time. The German daily Bild reported that the boy's hand became infected and that he wasn't able to attend an internship as a result.

A district court in Cochem fined the male teacher €2,700 ($3,160) for causing bodily harm. The female teacher was fined €2,500 ($2,900) for both assisting and causing bodily harm to the student.

The decision was made last Thursday, a court spokesperson said, adding that the judgement is not yet final, as a timeline for appealing the decision has not yet passed.

Why use heat to treat stings?

In the medical community in Europe and the United States, there's a clear consensus that cooling is the best way to treat bee and wasp stings.

However, in recent years, several products have appeared on the market called Stichheiler or "sting healers" that claim to reduce itching and swelling from stings and bug bites by using heat.

The pen-sized devices have small ceramic plates that heat up to 51 degrees Celsius (123 degrees Fahrenheit). The heated plates are then pressed to the sting site for several seconds.

The products, which are certified as medical devices in Germany, market themselves as a "chemical-free" way to treat stings.

A frequently cited study on the effectiveness of the devices was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company that first owned the product, and two out of its three co-authors were employees of the company at the time.

How to treat stings

It's important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible after being stung and to wash the area with soap and water.

Doctors recommend applying ice or a cold compress to the area, as it helps to prevent venom from spreading. Hydrocortisone creams or similar treatments can be applied to reduce swelling and itching.

If the sting causes an allergic reaction, an emergency medical team should be called right away. Some people who know they are allergic to such stings will often carry around an emergency treatment in the form of an epinephrine injection (also known as an EpiPen).

Wasps are protected in Germany under the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Deliberately disturbing wasps, and other wild animals, capturing them, injuring them or causing their death without reasonable cause can lead to fines between €5,000 and €50,000.

People who are allergic to wasp stings are entitled to kill the insects if they feel they are in danger.

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