For many people, getting a bee sting is a nuisance, nothing more. Ice therapy to relieve the mild pain is all that’s necessary. However, for some individuals, bee stings and other insect bites pose a serious health problem. Here are basic facts about symptoms related to insect stings and how to treat a potentially life-threatening reaction.
Fact: Most people are sensitive to bee venom.
A bee’s stinger contains chemicals that ward off potential enemies. It’s this mix of naturally-occurring substances that, together with some sharp stinger barbs, make a bee sting hurt like fire.
When a bee stings, it creates a localized reaction with symptoms such as:
Bugs, such as yellow jackets, wasps, hornets, and others, often create the same symptoms when they attack.
Fact: First aid for a common bee sting is simple.
Mild insect stings respond well to a cold compress, elevation of the affected limb or area, and cleansing with ordinary soap and water. To alleviate itchiness, try calamine lotion or a mild, over-the-counter antihistamine, such as Benadryl.
Fact: Multiple bee stings enhance the localized reaction.
If you receive multiple stings in a short period of time, you’ll probably develop enhanced symptoms, including:
These reactions don’t necessarily mean you are allergic to bees. You simply reacted more urgently and severely because of the increased amount of venom entering your system. These reactions require a trip to the hospital emergency room or local urgent care center for faster relief from symptoms.
Fact: Some people are severely allergic to bee stings. This is called anaphylaxis.
This dangerous reaction produces symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty speaking and swallowing
- Extreme itching
- Disorientation and even loss of consciousness
In such a case, the patient must receive emergency medical care on the spot. Dial 911 for help, and/or administer the epinephrine, which the persons may carry on them. Epinephrine, administered via an EpiPen injection, neutralizes the allergic response to the bee sting.
Fact: If you have had a moderate to severe reaction to any insect sting, you should see an allergist.
At Oak Brook Allergist, we will test your sensitivity to insect venom with a skin prick test. This test places a small amount of the suspected allergen under the skin, and the doctor notes the localized reaction.
Depending on what the allergist detects, you may begin venom immunotherapy, or allergy shots, to gradually reduce your sensitivity to insect stings. You may require several months to years of injections to reduce your body’s sensitivity. This treatment is not available to all patients, so talk to your allergist about whether you are a good candidate.
Fact: To those with severe allergies to bee stings, it can be deadly.
The Centers for Disease Control report that over 60 people die from bee stings in the US annually. The majority are boys or young men. So, insect stings should never be taken lightly. It is important to have an emergency plan in place in case a bee sting occurs suddenly.
Allergists in Naperville for Bee Sting Allergy Care
In Northeast Illinois, the allergists to see for a wide range of immunological conditions–including bee stings–are at Oak Brook Allergists. Call us right away if you have a concern about a bee sting allergy.
Call us at (630) 574-0460, or use the appointment request form on our home page for a consultation. We have locations in Naperville, Downers Grove, Plainfield and Elmhurst.