Bee Sting Allergies – A Dangerous Problem!

James Barber, M.D.

This can be one of the most painful and dangerous allergies that a person could have in their DNA.  When stung by a bee, a person has a severe pain response.  All allergic responses are an attempt by the body to remove foreign particles.  When a person is exposed to any foreign substance, antibodies are created by the body to block any effect of the foreign substance.  When this act of creating antibodies produces an excessive immune response, we say that the person is allergic to that substance.Bee on flower

 

Bee Sting Allergy Symptoms

The allergic response may be so minimal that the person does not even know that they have had an allergic reaction.  However, when the person is exposed to the substance again the reaction will be stronger and noticeable.  The reaction may even be severe. With a severe allergic reaction, a person’s trachea begins to get smaller and smaller due to swelling around the windpipe.  If the person does not get treatment, it is possible for the person to die due to an inability to inhale and exhale air.

So one of the first noticeable symptoms of a significant allergic reaction is swelling of tissues.  Patches of swollen skin right on the surface of the body are called hives. The swelling can involve any part of the body but usually is seen first at the site of a bee sting and then the face begins to swell and the person quickly progresses to shortness of breath.

 

Management Options

When a person has a severe allergic reaction, they need an injection of epinephrine in order to reverse the windpipe closure. Currently in July 2013, the Phizer pharmaceutical company makes a convenient, portable, epinephrine injectable product that looks like a writing pen and is called Epipen.  The dose of epinephrine is already loaded, which makes it easy to use.  This device has saved many lives.

If an individual’s allergic reaction is mild to minimal, they can be given the antihistamine Benadryl to control the swelling.  Steroid injections may also be needed.  One of the common steroids used is Prednisone.

If the above treatments do not control the allergic reaction then the person should be taken to the hospital and may be intubated and put on a respirator.

 

Prevention

The bee sting allergy is potentially very dangerous because instead of being stung by one bee it is possible that the person could be stung by many bees, causing a very rapid response.

Therefore, it is very important that a person does not put themselves into a situation in which they are reaching into an area in which they can not see what is located in the area.  For example, putting your hand in a bucket without actually seeing what is in there!

When a person has any type of allergy, including severe reactions to bee stings, it is wise for the person to wear a special bracelet, which can alert others about what might happen if the person comes in contact with the substance that triggers the severe reaction.

During a severe allergic reaction, which can also be called anaphylaxis, the severe swelling can be accompanied by a swelling of the muscles.  This may lead to an extensive peripheral vasodilation, which drops the person’s blood pressure, leading to a collapse of the circulatory system.  This extreme level of reaction is called anaphylactic shock.

Therefore, to avoid the whole scenario of a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting:  Do not put your hand or foot into an area where it can not be seen.

 

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