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Everything You Need to Know About Bee Sting Allergies

Whether you’re working outside in your garden, having a lunchtime picnic in the park, or taking a hike under blue skies, you’re bound to have an encounter with bees. And most bees would prefer to get out of your way.

However, some species are more aggressive than others and will go to great lengths to protect their hive. Even the mild-natured bumblebee will sting if it feels you’re threatening its life or nest.

Stings are painful, but for most people, the discomfort usually fades within a few hours. Unfortunately, even a single bee sting can sometimes cause severe symptoms that may catch you by surprise.   

Dr. Rahimi, a skilled allergist, and immunologist who is very familiar with bee stings and the problems they cause, shares a few insights about bees and how to spot the warning signs of an allergic reaction.

What happens when you’re stung by a bee?

When they feel threatened, bees and other stinging insects use sharp, hollow tubes called stingers to inject venom into your skin. The venom usually causes temporary redness, pain, swelling, and itching at the site.

If you’re allergic to the toxin, however, your reaction is typically much more significant and may become life-threatening, with symptoms such as difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness.

It’s possible to develop an allergy at any time, even when you’ve been stung before and didn’t have a problem. Interestingly, adults often have more severe reactions to bee stings than children.   

Your risk of a serious reaction to bee venom also increases when you’re stung multiple times. Honeybees die after stinging once, but a swarm can deliver significant amounts of venom through multiple stings.

All other bee species, as well as wasps and hornets, can sting repeatedly before flying away. It’s also important to note that when a bee stings you, along with the venom, it releases chemicals that attract other bees to the area.

When should I see a doctor for a bee sting?

If you’re stung, it’s important to remain calm and remember that most bee stings cause only a mild response.

Call 911 or seek emergency medical care, however, if you’re experiencing symptoms of a severe reaction, which may include:

One severe reaction increases your risk of experiencing another the next time you’re stung, by about 60 percent. I recommend my patients see me for a visit after having a significant reaction to a bee sting and may suggest allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help you build up a resistance to the venom.

Moderate reactions to bee stings often include extreme redness and significant swelling at the site that worsens over 5-10 days. A moderate reaction doesn’t always mean you’ll have a severe reaction next time, but I do recommend that my patients come in for an evaluation in this case, which may include allergy testing.

Anyone with a history of severe reaction or known allergy to bee venom should always carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen or other). Use the autoinjector as directed, immediately after a sting, and don’t skip the call to 911 so that medical professionals can monitor your health and provide further treatment as necessary.

What about multiple bee stings?  

Multiple stings are concerning whether you have an allergy or not since the accumulation of venom can induce a severe reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

Concerning symptoms after multiple stings may include:

If you’ve been stung by one or several honeybees, remove any stingers left behind as soon as possible. These barbed injectors are often attached to intact venom sacs that continue to pump venom even after the bee has died.

How can I avoid bee stings?

It’s hard to avoid bees, especially in an outdoor-focused state like Texas, but you can help limit your risk of a sting by taking a few precautions, such as:

If you suspect you may have a bee sting allergy, contact Allergy Relief Clinics today for an evaluation and discussion regarding available treatment options.  

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