Bees and wasps are Arthropods. They are crucially important to the pollination of plants, specifically flowers, fruits and vegetables. They vary in size and have induced fear into humans for centuries. Phobias of insects have long been a source for people to avoid the outdoors.
MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT BEE STINGS
- Myth: After your first bee sting reaction, future bees stings double and triple in severity.
Fact: In many research studies, repeated stings over time actually have a lesser reaction, not an increased one.
- Myth: Elderly individuals are more susceptible to a severe reaction than middle-aged.
Fact: The older one gets the lower the body’s histamine production. Subsequently, the allergic reaction is less. This is not to say that an anaphylactic reaction cannot occur, although it is rare.
- Myth: Bees can see and sting in the dark.
Fact: This is partially true; bees can sting in the dark as a stimulus-response reaction. However, they cannot see in the dark. If being chased by a swarm of bees during the day, you can decrease their intensity by running to a dark garage or a darkened area of a forest.
- Myth: A severe anaphylactic reaction will usually occur in the first 5 to 10 minutes after being stung.
Fact: Most anaphylactic reactions do occur in the first 15 to 30 minutes. 60% occur in the first hour, and the remaining occur in the next 3 to 4 hours. If there is not a severe reaction in 5 hours, the chances are very good that one will not occur.
The venom of bees, wasps and fire ants contains numerous substances. Our body quickly reacts to these substances with the release of histamine from our mast cells (found in high concentrations in the skin, lungs, and stomach lining). The release of histamine is usually triggered by a skin disruption, like a bee sting.
Histamine is a potent blood vessel dilator (making them expand). Individuals, therefore, can become hypotensive (the lowering of blood pressure) and may pass out. In the lungs, histamine may cause constriction. Therefore, difficult breathing, wheezing and in severe cases, respiratory collapse can occur.
Symptoms & Reactions
When we are stung we can experience sharp pain at the site of the sting, redness and often a wheal (a raised bump – pale in color) can develop. Localized itching is common and the area of redness can become as large as 12 to 18 inches in diameter over the next 24 hours.
According to some reports, the average person can tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. The average adult can withstand approximately 1000 stings, where around 500 stings can kill a child.
CAN BEE STINGS KILL?
Yes. Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) and death can occur from one sting if the individual is highly allergic.
Extreme allergic reactions will usually occur in the first hour; most in the first 15 minutes. Practically all severe reactions will happen in the first 6 hours.
Many of us believe false information about allergic reactions to bee stings. First, there is practically no correlation between systemic reactions and the number of stings in the past or the number of stings per incident and severity of an allergic reaction. In a study of 138 adults with a history of anaphylactic reactions, 99 (71.8%) had no anaphylactic reaction to later stings, 17 (12.3%) had more severe reactions, and 22 (15.9%) had mild reactions.
While MOST people will not experience a serious reaction, 1 in 4 has a chance of suffering from a bee sting. This means we cannot just ignore the potential for serious reaction to a bee sting. Even though they are small creatures, one sting to a sensitive person can be fatal. Therefore, it is vital that we be aware of what to do when a sting happens.
Bee Sting Treatment
1.) Pull the stinger out. (The remaining venom in the sac of the stinger DOES NOT increase the reaction should you inadvertently push more venom into your wound).
2.) Apply cool compresses or ice.
3.) Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be given to decrease minimal allergic reactions.
4.) If a severe allergic reaction occurs, seek emergency medical attention.
5.) In addition to diphenhydramine, it has been shown that cimetidine (Tagamet), an H2 blocker, can also help decrease the allergic response.
People who KNOW that they are highly reactive to bee venom usually carry emergency treatment kits with them. These usually contain a prefilled syringe of epinephrine and a dose of an antihistamine, sometimes called epi-pens. If the initial signs and symptoms from a sting progress to the serious stage, advanced medical treatment must be sought.
1. Adults – 0.3 to 0.5 mg of 1:1000 epinephrine IM.
2. Children – 0.01 mg/kg of 1:1000 epinephrine IM.
3. Diphenhydramine 25 to 50 mg IV, IM, or P.O.
4. H2 – antagonist ranitidine 50 mg IV.
5. Steroids, like prednisone, have no acute benefit. However, they may help reduce redness and swelling over time.
What Does This Mean for a Pregnant Mom?
Naturally, everything mom does can have an impact on the baby – especially when she takes any drug. However, it is critical to take a logical, philosophical approach to the use of drugs during an incident where a bee sting endangers the life of the mother.
In the case of the treatments used for bee stings, the decision to use the shot is very easy to make because the epinephrine used is actually a naturally occurring substance that is already available to mom and baby in the body. So, using an epi-pen on a pregnant woman is a better decision than not using it.
The other drugs are usually administered in small amounts for a very short period – usually less than 72 hours. They have also been shown to be very safe for all people, including tiny babies, when used properly and for short periods.
CONCLUSION Bee stings can be fatal. They should be treated. The person stung should be monitored for at least 6 hours to be sure a serious reaction does not happen. Professional medical attention must be sought when the victim begins to exhibit signs of a serious reaction. Long-term problems are rare.