Allergy: Wasp and bee stings

Fact Checked

Any individual can become highly sensitive or allergic to wasp and bee stings, but those who are at high risk include bee keepers who spend most of the time around the insects. Those who work in gardens are also likely to become allergic to wasp and bee stings. Take not that it is uncommon to become allergic to both insects though.

The insect stings are quite common in children, but they are unlikely to end up with severe reactions. Even though severe reactions can develop due to a sting, cases of reported deaths due to stings are rare and mainly affect older individuals. In most cases of wasp and bee stings, many survive even if no treatment was given.

What are the symptoms?

Localized reactions

There is evident swelling at the sting site that can grow up to 10 cm in diameter and lasts for more than 24 hours. The entire limb might be involved without any generalized symptoms. These reactions are quite common in children than adults.

Mild systemic reactions

Wasp and bee stings
If an epinephrine auto-injector is available, you have to administer a shot right away.

These reactions involve swelling of the skin and hives in areas away from the sting site. Children with these reactions are not considered to be at risk for future life-threatening reactions. Nevertheless, among older children and adults, these reactions can be a risk factor for an upcoming severe reaction.

Moderate/severe reactions (anaphylaxis)

  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Swelling of the mouth and throat
  • Generalized flushing of the skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Large-sized hives
  • Nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramping
  • Abrupt feeling of weakness
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness

The symptoms of a severe reaction occur since the wasp and bee stings triggers the release of allergy-producing chemicals into the bloodstream that can affect the entire body especially the blood circulation and breathing.

Management of allergy to wasp and bee stings

In case a stinger is left behind, it is best to remove it in a gentle manner to prevent further release of venom. Avoid pulling it out using your fingers since this will only squeeze the venom sac.

Generally, wasps do not leave behind stingers but it simply means that they can sting several times. Apply an ice pack on the sting site and instruct the individual to rest especially if he/she feels faint.

Localized reactions

Provide the individual with a non-sedating, fast-acting antihistamine. As for a large localized reaction, it must be managed with oral steroid tablets after being stung and repeat on a daily basis for up to 3 days. If in doubt on what to use, consult a doctor.

Anaphylactic reactions

If an epinephrine auto-injector is available, you have to administer a shot right away. Once a shot is given, call for emergency assistance.

Position the individual lying down and stay with him/her. Do not allow him/her to stand up or walk. If the individual has not recovered in 5 minutes, administer another shot of epinephrine if available.

In case the individual was able to recover quickly, you still have to bring him/her to the hospital for further assessment in case of a delayed or repeated reaction. If the individual has an asthma inhaler, it should be used after a shot is given. Just remember not to delay with the administration of epinephrine.

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