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Allergic reactions from bee stings can be deadly - symptoms and awareness

Updated on April 6, 2012
EpiPen injector
EpiPen injector

Most people know the pain of being stung by a bee or other types of flying insects. The sting really stings for a bit, and then the pain eventually subsides. Not for everybody, however. For some people, the reaction is far more severe and can even be fatal. It is important to know that in many people, a previous allergic reaction may have not occurred. An adult or child may develop a life-threatening reaction even though they have never shown systemic signs of it in the past.

The typical reaction for a bee sting is a burning pain at the location of the sting. A small welt will sometimes form around the area and a small white dot may appear where the insect stinger pierced the skin. The area around the sting may have some slight swelling. These are normal symptoms to a sting. Any bee stings should be monitored for advanced reactions.

For some people, when stung, the reaction may be slightly more severe. The reaction may last for a couple days and can include swelling that increases beyond the day of the sting. This local reaction may dissipate after a period of five to ten days. This type of reaction may be a risk factor for a future anaphylactic reaction.

Reactions for others are far more severe. This type of severe allergic reaction is called "anaphylaxis". This reaction can be deadly and requires rapid medical treatment. Anaphylaxis is developed by about three percent of people when stung by a bee.

Some of the common anaphylaxis symptoms include:

  • Troubled breathing
  • Increased and weakened pulse
  • Skin reactions on other areas of the body from the sting
  • Hives
  • Pale skin
  • Fainting and dizziness
  • Lightheadedness and loss of consciousness
  • Abdominal pains

The primary treatment for anaphylaxis is Epinephrine. This should be administered as soon as a diagnosis of anaphylaxis is suspected. Additional injections may be necessary. Additional medical measures may be necessary for a person suffering from anaphylactic shock. In some instances, death may result within minutes.

Anaphylaxis can be treated by determining the trigger of the reaction (if unknown). Immunotherapy can be conducted to prevent future anaphylactic reactions. Immunotherapy is essentially desensitization and involves increasingly large doeses of the allergen over a period of time until the body becomes more resistant to it. Future stings have a significantly decreased reaction.

People known to have anaphylactic reactions should have a plan of action of how to respond in the event of a sting. This is particularly important with children, as fatalities are higher for young people. A doctor can prescribe a EpiPen injector (Epinephrine) in case of emergency. This should be carried and the person should know how to use it or have it administered to them if necessary. Any bee sting should be monitored for a potential allergic reaction.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purpose only. This information is not for use as medical advice. Seek advice or treatment from a medical professional.


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    • onthegrind profile image

      onthegrind 5 years ago from Florida, United States

      I'm very sorry to hear about what you've endured, Kasey. That is truly tragic. That definitely emphasizes the importance of having an epi-pen on hand. In terms of awareness, most people don't know that they could be allergic and not even know it. Good question about awareness groups. I do not know of any, but a quick Google search turned up a Facebook group. It seems that most of the focus on anaphylaxis is from food allergies. Thanks for taking time to comment and share your personal story on this subject.

    • profile image

      Kasey 5 years ago

      We really need to have more awareness as to how dangerous anaphylaxis is to those with allergies to stings. It just seems to me there isn't a lot of awareness and many people take this subject entirely too lightly. In the past 3 years I have tragically lost 2 close family members to anaphylaxis from bee stings. Both family members we caught without their epi-pens at hand and unfortunately passed away due to anaphylactic shock. I myself haven't been diagnosed as being allergic but have been proactive since the loss of my cousin and will be carrying an epi-pen with me to prevent this from happening yet again to my family. I just feel that if we had more awareness as to how important it is for those with allergies to carry their medication with them at all times we could possibly prevent more allergy sufferers from losing their lives to something so treatable. Are there any awareness groups out there for this? I'd love more info if anyone could help.

    • onthegrind profile image

      onthegrind 6 years ago from Florida, United States

      Thanks for taking time to comment. I agree about the importance of this information. I'm glad your father fared well with his reaction. The epipen is usually all it takes. As a child, I experienced one really bad reaction (before I knew I was allergic) where I was far from a hospital. It was a scary experience. I imagine it was far more frightening for my parents.

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 6 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      This is really important information! My father was almost 60 when he was first stung by a bee and had an anaphylactic reaction! We were completely stunned! We took him to the ambulance barn as we live in a small town without a hospital, but the epipen shot took care of him. He now carries an epipen with him all the time! Thanks for sharing this information! Voted up, useful and interesting!