What to use for bee sting allergy
It is possible for those who react badly to be de-sensitised to bee stings by allergen immunotherapy. Little amounts of purified venom are given at regular intervals over 3-5 years. This will own a 90 per cent chance of reducing the risks of a life-threatening reaction in those at risk.
People at risk of severe allergic reactions to bee stings should wear medical identification jewellery, and carry an EpiPen.
How do I know if I am allergic?
If you own not been stung by a bee before you are unlikely to be allergic to the venom.
However, if you own been stung by a bee, there is the potential to develop an allergy. We do not know why some people become allergic and others don’t, but how often you are stung seems to frolic a role.
If you own experienced extremely large local reactions from a bee sting, or symptoms separate from the sting site (such as swelling, rashes and itchy skin elsewhere, dizziness or difficulty breathing) you may own an allergic sensitivity. Your doctor can assess you by taking a full history of reactions.
Skin testing or blood allergy testing can assist confirm or exclude potential allergy triggers.
An allergy specialist is key to assess people’s risk of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
There is an effective treatment for severe honey bee allergies, called immunotherapy. This involves the regular istration of venom extracts with doses gradually increased over a period of three to five years. This aims to desensitise the body’s immune system, essentially to “switch off” the allergic reaction to the venom.
Venom immunotherapy is extremely effective at preventing severe reactions and is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, whereas other immunotherapy treatments in Australia cost an average of A$1,200 per year.
Treating bee stings
The best way to deal with a bee sting is to scrape it off with a sideways motion using a firm object such as the blade of a knife, a credit card, or even a finger nail.
Attempt not to squeeze the venom sac. However, quick removal of the sting is more significant than how you do it. Scraping the sting off immediately will reduce the quantity of venom injected. Ice should immediately be applied to the area. Soothing creams and antihistamines may assist with the itching.
If the person who has been stung is known to react badly to bee stings a compression bandage should be applied to the arm or leg and the patient encouraged not to move.
Medical assist should be sought immediately. An injection of adrenaline, such as from an EpiPen, may be needed to overcome the reaction.
When to see a doctor
- Seek assist immediately by dialling 000 if you are having a serious reaction, feel unwell, or are dizzy or vomiting.
- If you own had severe reactions before and own been prescribed an EpiPen for bee sting allergy. Use the EpiPen and dial 000.
- Seek assist immediately by dialling 000 if you own been stung by multiple bees.
- If your bee sting swelling doesn’t go away after 48 hours.
Last Reviewed: 05/10/2015
ASCIA. Allergic reactions to bites and stings. Updated June 2015. http://www.allergy.org.au/patients/insect-allergy-bites-and-stings/allergic-reactions-to-bites-and-stings (accessed Sept 2015).
Mayo Clinic. Bee stings. Updated Feb 2014. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bee-stings/basics/symptoms/con-20034120 (accessed Sept 2015).
A Victorian man died yesterday after being stung by several bees. While bee sting deaths are rare (bees claim around two Australian lives each year), bees cause more hospitalisations than any venomous creature.
Around 60% of Australians own been stung by a honey bee; and with a population of more than 20 million, that’s a lot of us who own just experienced pain and some swelling.
So what happens when we’re stung by a bee, and what determines whether we’ll own a severe reaction?
Further reading: Ants, bees and wasps: the venomous Australians with a sting in their tails
Bees are attracted by strong smells and bright colours. They are most athletic on bright sunny days. Honey bees normally only sting when defending themselves.
Most bee stings happen when they are stepped on by bare feet. Watch out for thick patches of clover in lawns where children frolic. Avoid wearing perfume when exterior. Never attempt to remove a bee colony or nest yourself.
Always call the experts in.
One of the most dangerous places to be stung by a bee is inside the mouth. The resulting swelling can block off breathing with fatal results. This generally happens as a result of having a drink exterior and not noticing a bee getting into it. This can easily happen if drinking out of a can. Always use a straw if drinking from a can.
How do bees sting?
Honey bees work as collective group that live as a hive.
The group protects the queen, who produces new bees, with worker bees flying out to collect nectar or pollen to bring back to the hive.
Bees own a venom sac and a barbed stinger at the finish of their abdomen. This apparatus is a defensive mechanism that is used if they feel under attack; to defend the hive from destruction.
The barb from a bee sting pierces the skin to inject the venom, with the bee releasing pheromones that can incite other nearby bees to join the defensive attack.
The venom is a complicated mixture of proteins and organic molecules, that when injected into our body can cause pain, local swelling, itching and irritation that may final for hours. The specific activity of some bee venom components own also been used to treat cancer.
Further reading: Curious Kids: Do bees ever accidentally sting other bees?
A single bee sting is almost always limited to these local effects.
Some people, however, develop an allergy to some of these venom proteins. Anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that is potentially life-threatening, is the most serious reaction our body’s immune system can launch to defend against the venom.
It is our body’s allergy to the bee venom, rather than the venom itself, that generally causes life-threatening issues and hospitalisation.