For most people, a bee sting is nothing to worry about and home treatments can successfully ease any pain or minor swelling. If, however, you are allergic to a bee sting and you get stung, it may lead to a severe allergic reaction that requires professional medical treatment.
A bee sting can trigger different reactions that can range from temporary discomfort to a severe allergic reaction requiring prompt medical treatment. If you have had an allergic reaction to a bee sting in the past, it is possible that you may suffer a worse reaction if you are stung again in the future.
Symptoms of A Bee Sting Allergy
Often, bee sting symptoms are minor and only cause a mild reaction which usually goes away within a few hours. Symptoms may include:
- Immediate pain at the sting site (burning or sharp pain)
- A red welt or raised area at the sting site
- Itching or swelling around the sting site
Sometimes symptoms such as itching, swelling, and redness may last for up to a week or symptoms may increase gradually over the next day or two. This indicates a moderate reaction and should be monitored.
Speak to Your Doctor for Advice If:
- You are concerned about your bee sting
- Your symptoms don’t improve after a few days
- You have had other allergy symptoms relating to your bee sting
When to Seek Emergency Medical Care
If you have an allergy to a bee sting, the venom can cause a severe, life-threatening reaction. This can involve your whole body and may begin very rapidly after you are stung. You should call 911 and seek immediate emergency treatment if you or someone near you develops a severe reaction to a bee sting or if there are multiple bee stings. The following symptoms are a sign of an allergic reaction:
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
- Dizziness or fainting
- Hives (skin rash)
Multiple bee stings can cause an accumulation of venom, which can induce a toxic reaction and cause symptoms, including:
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea
- Vertigo (spinning sensation)
- Headache, dizziness, or fainting
Without prompt treatment, a severe bee sting allergic reaction or multiple bee stings can lead to breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and even death. To treat a severe allergic reaction, you may require medications such as epinephrine to reduce your body’s allergic response, oxygen to help you breathe, intravenous antihistamines, and other medications.
Treating A Bee Sting
If a bee stings you, in most cases, it will leave its sting in the skin. You should try to remove the sting as soon as possible to prevent any more venom being released. Try to scrape it out sideways with something with a hard edge, such as a finger nail or credit card. Avoid using tweezers or your fingers to pull it out as this can spread the venom. Once the sting is removed:
- Wash the sting area with soap and water
- Apply a cold compress to any swelling for a minimum of 10 minutes
- Try to elevate the affected area to reduce further swelling
- Avoid scratching the sting site, as this can increase symptoms and the risk of infection
- If necessary, take an over-the-counter pain reliever or oral antihistamine to alleviate pain or minor swelling
- If required, hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can help to relieve itching, redness, and swelling
Preventing Bee Sting Allergic Reactions
If you have a history of a bad bee sting allergic reaction, a board-certified allergist can work with you to identify, treat, and prevent future allergic reactions. They can carry out allergy testing to pin point exact allergy triggers, and can also provide you with an emergency adrenaline kit that can save your life in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Treatments such as venom immunotherapy can also help to prevent severe bee sting allergic reactions. Venom immunotherapy works by safely introducing small amounts of the venom to your body over a period of time in order to desensitize it to the allergen. It can result in a significantly less severe reaction if you get stung in the future, and it may even prevent an allergic response altogether.
Allergy Specialists in Northeast Illinois
If you or a member of your family has a suspected bee sting allergy, speak to the experienced board-certified allergy specialists at Oak Brook Allergists. We offer allergy testing to accurately identify the cause of your allergy, and we can work with you to create the best treatment plan to make sure you and your family are protected against insect sting allergies.