How Bad Can a Bee Sting be?
Bee Stings from a honeybee or wasp stings from a yellow jacket may be very dangerous. A bee or wasp sting allergy can lead to shortness of breath, shock and even death.
Their stinger carries venom which for some is highly dangerous.
Quickcare or ER
Key Red Flags that will send you to the ER after a bee/wasp sting:
- Shortness of Breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Decreased level of consciousness (anaphylactic shock).
- Swelling around the face and mouth
These are bad and need to be treated in the ER.
If there is a red rash only, then that patient can be seen at a clinic.
What will the doctor ask?
Your doctor will want to know your symptoms. Remember, your symptoms are your description of your condition to your doctor. It is your story.
Answering the following questions will help your doctor understand if you are allergic to bees:
- Is there any difficulty breathing?
- Is there any difficulty swallowing?
- Is there any swelling at your mouth or lips?
- Are you getting a rash?
- Are you feeling faint or weak?
What will the doctor look for?
Your doctor will look for signs. A sign is an objective finding discovered on examination.
Key point: A doctor will look for shortness of breath or the possibility of developing shortness of breath.
That is, looking for swelling around the mouth and lips is crucial. That type of allergic reaction swelling can spread into the throat.
Your doctor will look for signs of shortness of breath. Labored breathing, wheezing or difficulty speaking full sentences are danger signs
A blood pressure check is critical. When there is anaphylaxis, the blood pressure drops and shock has occurred THIS IS VERY VERY BAD. A decrease level of consciousness follows.
What is the doctor thinking?
Your doctor will create a mental list of possible reasons for your signs and symptoms. This list is called a differential diagnosis.
When there is itching (inflammation and swelling) on the outside, there could be itching and swelling on the inside. Specifically in the throat and lungs.
That can be very scary for the doctor and patient.
Allergic reactions are usually pretty obvious. The question for the doctor is the severity. How bad is the reaction?
A doctor has to anticipate a potential closing of the airway.
A delayed reaction is always a possibility. At times, 2-3 weeks after a sting, fever, malaise, swollen glands, painful joints and headache may appear.
What is the Bee Sting treatment?
The way I explain it, allergic reactions are at three levels:
If the reaction is mild, a bee sting remedy is simply benadryl (50 mg intramuscular for adults) will get rid of the hives. The benadryl is a ANTI- Histamine.
If the reaction is moderate, then benadryl and prednisone (a steroid) will help. The prednisone is not to build muscles. It actually decreases the inflammatory process. I like to give a shot of Depomedrol (an injectable steroid) 125 mg intramuscular while in the clinic.
When there is a severe reaction such as shock or difficulty breathing, an epinephrine (adrenaline) shot will need to be added…FAST!!! I then place my patients on a mask with an Albuterol mist. This vapor opens up the lung bronchioles similarly to an asthmatic reaction.
If available, give epinephrine 1:1000 concentration. The amount is .01 mg/kg intramuscular. A severe reaction should be seen in the ER where definite care is available. Additionally, the stinger should be removed and the wound cleansed with soap and water.
How long will you be sick?
Generally, patients get better right away. I tend to keep patients on steroids for 2-3 days after the initial visit.
Also I give Benadryl every 6 hours for 1-2 days is helpful. Furthermore, I prescribe an EpiPen which a life-saving injection just in case of another sting later on.
I like to check patients in 24 hours. Most do fine by the next day.
One option is the keep a patient, who had a severe allergic reaction, in an observation unit. Not quite an admission to the hospital, an “obs” unit allows a practitioner to keep a close eye on the patient. Occasionally, if more epinephrine is needed, it suggests an admission to the hospital is warranted.
Let me tell you a story
Maria’s story is so common. After coming across the US-Mexican border for a better life, she fell into unskilled labor jobs. Most prevalent is the fieldwork in California. Here in Watsonville, there are plenty of berries to pick. From this small corner of the coast, our prized fruit ends up in the markets all around the country.
The work is grueling. Besides the heat and the dirt, bees love to be around that sweet berry scent. Workers and bees can make a bad combination. One bee sting can mean death. Bee venom is not to be taken lightly.
Bee sting victims come to the clinic as often as the ER. What started as a quiet weekend shift, turned scary. ” A bee stung me! A bee stung me! And now I am itching everywhere,” cried out Maria as she rushed into the clinic.
Airway. Airway. Is Maria breathing well? Is her mouth about to close up? Is she in shock? Is her throat swelling? Does she have skin hives? These are the most pressing questions.
Maria was not in distress. She was breathing well and able to speak without difficulty. A huge sigh of relief. She did develop huge welts all around her body. Now questions of past reactions could be asked.
Maria is having an allergic reaction. She is reacting to a bee sting
This means her body is releasing histamine in great quantities. With the release of histamine, Maria’s skin looked as red as a lobster.
After a dose of steroids and a shot of benadryl, she finally relaxed and breathed comfortably. Her skin turned back to the sun-damaged color of fieldworkers.
I hope this helps.