Were you stung by a honey bee? Don’t panic! Most people are not allergic to bee stings and have only temporary discomfort when stung – easily treated by home remedies, such as immediate application of ice.
Bees have a barbed stinger that usually stays in the sting and injects venom. In contrast, wasp and hornet stingers have no barb and consequently do not detach and remain in your skin. But unlike a bee, these insects can sting you multiple times.
Remove the stinger right away from a bee sting. Do not grab or use tweezers to get it out, because that will release more venom into your body. Scrape the stinger out immediately with your fingernail or a credit card.
I keep a credit card in my pocket along with a tube of Benadryl cream or spray while I am working with the bees.
However, be aware of anaphylaxis! If you are or might be allergic, the riskiest bee sting symptoms to watch for are the following:
- itching, hives, or swelling over a large part of your body – not just where you were stung
- face, throat or tongue starts to swell
- trouble breathing
- stomach cramps
- nausea or diarrhea.
It is our body’s allergy to bee venom, rather than the venom itself, that can cause life-threatening issues called anaphylactic reactions, which require medical attention or hospitalization. If you have any of these symptoms call 911.
If you carry an Epi-Pen (epinephrine auto-injector), use it! And then call 911. The Epi-Pen may seem to resolve or lesson your symptoms, but you still need to go to “ER” (Emergency Room) to be checked out by a doctor.
If you have ever had an anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting, you should always have two Epi-Pens on hand.
Lower your risks:
- Avoid sweet-smelling perfumes and colognes and brightly colored clothing; they all attract insects.
- Avoid wearing sandals (especially while working with bees) or walking barefoot in the grass.
- If you know you are allergic, wear complete beekeeping protective gear.
- Don’t be drinking any sweet soda while beekeeping.
If you have a bad reaction to a bee sting, talk to your doctor about “immunotherapy.” It’s a way to very slowly get your body used to an allergen, so you won’t have as bad a reaction if you’re stung again.
Accidents do happen….so “Bee Aware!”
—by Nancee Braddock, RN, BSN