Summer safety: The bee allergy

As the weather gets warmer, insect bites and stings are on the rise. Insect stings are common allergens that can be a painful part of summer with the bee allergy the most common of them all. Being aware of bee allergies, and particularly its symptoms and treatment options, will keep you healthy this summer.

About bee allergies

A bee allergy is one of the most dangerous types of allergy and can occur at any age, even if you never had a reaction to a bee sting in the past. Life-threatening allergic reactions to stings from five insects — yellow jackets, honeybees, wasps, fire ants and hornets — have been estimated to occur in as much as 0.8 percent of children and 3 percent of those 18 years and older, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

When a person with a bee allergy is stung, their skin cells and immune system adversely react to the protein in the bee venom, causing the release of substances that set off an allergic reaction. While most people don’t experience an allergic response, a normal bee sting reaction is easily mistaken for an allergic one.

Symptoms

The ACAAI noted that the common symptoms of a bee or insect sting are localized pain, itching, swelling and redness that may last a few days to a week.

However, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) reported that people with a bee allergy can develop anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction a few minutes after a bee sting in which the person experiences a rapid pulse, wheezing, anxiety, difficulty breathing, dizziness, hives and restlessness. Additional symptoms may include swelling of the mouth, throat and face. An allergic reaction can also cause shock, unconsciousness, cardiac arrest or death. Therefore, seek immediate medical attention.

Treatment

There are several things you can do to alleviate symptoms of a bee sting. First, scrape with your fingernail over the sting site to remove the stinger. Don’t squeeze or use tweezers to remove the stinger as that could inadvertently release more venom into your body. Next, wash the area with soap and water. Apply ice to control the swelling and call your doctor or head to the emergency room. Severe allergies may require epinephrine, oxygen and IV fluids.

Prevention

Precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to bees. The first step is to distance oneself from bees, which often build their hives in trees, logs or buildings, noted the AAAAI. While typically docile away from their hives, bees may sting if their hives are disturbed. Call an exterminator if you see a hive in or around your house.

Don’t wear brightly colored clothing, perfume, open-toed shoes and walk barefoot when outdoors, the AAAAI added. Use caution when cooking, eating or drinking sweet drinks outdoors. Always use screens on doors and windows at home. Since a bee allergy can be fatal, keep an emergency treatment plan available should a bee sting occur.

If you take these precautions to heart, you’ll be better prepared to deal with a sting to yourself or a loved one. When unsure, always consult a specialist for more information.

If you have concerns or questions about allergies, Dr. Jason Casselman is accepting patients at Reid Allergy.

Image source: Flickr


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