Over two million people in America are allergic to stings from bees and other stinging insects, and the degree of these reactions ranges wildly from the mild to the potentially fatal. In the US severe bee sting reactions are responsible for around 50 deaths per year. If you have ever had a reaction to a bee sting – even a mild one, then there is a 60% chance that your next sting could be similar or worse than that last one. As such, it pays to ensure that you are prepared for future stings and know how to deal with them should they occur again.
Bee Sting Reactions
A systemic reaction (across the whole body) to bee stings is likely to occur in those who have antibodies in their body from previous stings and these are the ones that are most dangerous (in essence it is your reaction to the sting, rather than the actual sting itself, that will cause you problems). Around 2% of stings from bees cause a systemic reaction.
The reactions to bee stings vary greatly and can include itching, hives, loss of skin colour, unusual sensations inside the mouth, vomiting and nausea. In the most severe cases the individual will suffer ‘anaphylaxis’ which is the most likely reaction to be fatal. Here the individual will experience difficulty with breathing, feinting, swelling of the tongue, dizziness and a hoarse throat. This can occur immediately or up to a day following the sting.
Bee Sting Treatment
Immediately following the sting it is important to remove the sting which will still contain more venom. However it is important to avoid the common mistake of pinching the stung area in a bid to bring the sting to the surface as doing so can actually release more venom. Instead then, remove the sting by gently lifting it with a fingernail or tip of a blade and flicking or sliding it out.
The individual having the reaction should then of course be taken to a doctor or hospital immediately where they will be treated. Normally this will involve an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). Alternatively if you are aware of your condition you can invest in several self-inject able solutions which you will be able to obtain on prescription which include ‘Epi-Pen’, ‘ANA-Kit’ and more. These tend to only include one dose however so you should still seek medical attention. Carrying these at all times in summer is an important precaution. Similarly you can reduce the symptoms of some allergic reactions via an oral dosage of antihistamines such as Benadryl. Though you can purchase venom extractors, it is debated whether these in fact have any benefit. In any case, you should still seek medical attention even after you have attempted to treat the symptoms yourself.