When a bee stings you, their venom is injected into your skin through their stinger. Some stingers do not have barbs on them, which means they can be retracted and the insect lives on. However, bees have barbed stingers, which means that the insect actually dies. Generally speaking, bee stings are simply uncomfortable. However, around 3% of people who get stung experience some degree of allergies to the stings. Additionally, 0.8% of people who get stung by bees experience anaphylaxis, which can be lethal.
The majority of people experience nothing but a localized reaction to stings. This means that the bee sting symptoms involve nothing but the skin going red and feeling quite sore. It is also normal to experience some itching and swelling. However, none of these symptoms persist for a very long time. It is possible to have what is known as a large local reaction, which means the symptoms can remain present for around a week.
Systemic Allergic Reactions
If someone has a systemic allergic reaction, they find that their entire body is affected. This bee sting allergy happens in around 3% of the population. People will still have the normal symptoms of a bee sting, but they generally also experience hives, swelling in other areas, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and diarrhea.
Anaphylactic reactions are very rare, but very dangerous. Someone who experiences this will start to wheeze and notice their blood pressure dropping. This can send them into shock and it is even possible to die. Indeed, some 50 people in the United States die each year following a bee sting.
Generally speaking, the reaction occurs within a few minutes of the sting. If it is known that people have this significant allergy, they should at all times carry an “epi-pen” (ephinephrine) with them, which they can be injected with if they do go into shock.
How to Treat a Bee Sting
1. If you or the person who was stung has a history of allergic reactions or seems to be going into anaphylactic shock, always call the emergency services straight away.
2. Find the stinger and remove it if at all possible. Use something hard like a bankcard to swipe the area, which will make the stinger come out. Do this as soon as possible, as it may reduce the amount of venom that is released into the body.
3. Apply a cold ice pack to the sting, which stops the area from becoming inflamed and is one of the best forms of bee sting relief.
4. Clean the sting with soap and water and follow by applying hydrocortisone cream. This can reduce the severity of the reaction. You can even use water and meat tenderizer, because the tenderizer contains an enzyme that gets to work on breaking down the venom. Baking soda mixed with water helps as well.
5. If you think you may have a slight allergic reaction, then taking an antihistamine could be beneficial. These are generally available over the counter and won’t require a prescription.
6. If the sting is in the mouth or nose, emergency help should always be sought. More on first aid in case of a bee sting can be read here.
It is also important to learn how to avoid bee stings. Generally, if you see one bee, there will be more around so you may want to move. Also, don’t swat at bees, but generally stay still until they have moved away. If you swat, they may feel under attack, which is when they are more likely to sting.
Finally, respect our bees. Without them, our planet would be barren within just a few weeks.