Why should you consider allergy after bee stings?
Mild pain, swelling and redness are common and normal reactions observed in everyone stung by a bee. Individuals with bee allergy, however, will suffer from other and more severe symptoms like rashes around the entire body, swelling in remote areas far from the spot stung by the bee, inability to breathe due to swollen trachea or tongue (edema), vomiting, stomachache, reduced blood pressure and drowsiness. These symptoms are not restricted to specific site of stinging; they afflict vital systems like respiratory and circulatory systems. This reaction is called anaphylaxis.
The usual symptoms of bee sting, i.e. mild pain, swelling and redness at the stung spot, do not require consulting an emergency service. The aforesaid complaints can be easily subsided by applying ice on the spot. Local reaction of the stung tissue often causes increased severity of pain and swelling as well as local rise in temperature. In such cases, consulting a physician is recommended. Antihistaminic drugs and steroid therapy, if deemed necessary, are capable of treating the symptoms.
Allergic reactions should be suspected and the nearest medical center should be consulted, if the following symptoms are observed:
- Extensive rashes, itching or swelling on the skin, reaching out to remote areas other than the site of bee sting;
- Swelling in the tongue and face;
- Coughing, wheezing;
- Vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea; and
- Low blood pressure and drowsiness, which require immediate epinephrine injection. Otherwise, vital risk may occur.
How to ensure protection against bee stings?
A complete protective solution for those who are allergic to bee stings does not exist, yet precautions can be taken. Outdoor environments where food and drinks are present will attract bees, and increase your risk of encountering them. This is why you should avoid the following to reduce risk of bee stings especially in warm weather:
- Eating and drinking outside;
- Walking barefoot;
- Gardening (particularly pruning vegetation and picking fruits);
- Being in vicinity of trash cans;
- Engaging in outdoor sports activities;
- Being close to bee hives; and
- Trying to manually dispose of wasp hives in areas like windows or roofs.
It is also worth noting that bees sting humans when they feel threatened and decide to attack.
How is bee allergy treated?
The only proven protective treatment method, which is known to provide protection by up to 83-100% as of completion of therapy, is vaccination therapy (venom immunotherapy). This therapy involves building up immunity by injection bee venom to the patient’s arm in regular intervals over the course of at least 4-5 years. Dosage is initially low and injected subcutaneously from the outer surface of upper arm under supervision of a physician. After attaining therapeutic dose, vaccination is resumed in intervals of 4-6 weeks. Patients who previously experienced severe allergic reaction due to bee allergy (anaphylaxis) are required to keep an adrenaline (epinephrine) auto-injector with them until completion of immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy to treat bee allergy should be configured and launched by a specialist experienced in this field. Allergic reactions may still occur following injections. Therefore supervision of a physician is essential during therapy and for at least 30 minutes after therapy.