A Bee Stung Me. Am I Allergic?
For most people, a bee sting hurts for a few hours and then gets better. If you’re allergic, you may have a more serious reaction.
Some people get severe swelling at the site of the sting. A few have life-threatening symptoms, even if they’ve never before had an allergic reaction to a bee sting. That’s a dangerous condition called anaphylaxis.
The riskiest symptoms to watch for are:
- Itching, hives, or swelling over a large part of your body — not just where you got stung
- Face, throat or tongue starts to swell
- Trouble breathing
- Wheezing or hoarseness
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea or diarrhea
If you have these symptoms, use an epinephrine shot (Auvi-Q or Epi-Pen) if you carry them with you — always have two on hand. Then call 911 immediately. You still need to go to the hospital, even if the shot seemed to work.
Use the epinephrine auto-injector if you have any symptoms of anaphylaxis. Even if it turns out to be something else, using the medicine as a precaution won’t harm you.
If you’ve never had a severe reaction to a sting before, and you just have itching, redness, and swelling right around the sting site, but are otherwise OK:
- Cool the hurt area with ice off and on (10 minutes on, 10 minutes off). Use a towel. Don’t put ice directly on your skin and don’t use heat.
- Raise the area of the sting to reduce swelling.
- Take an antihistamine and use a hydrocortisone cream to ease swelling and itching.
Lower Your Risk
To prevent stings:
- Avoid wearing sandals or walking barefoot in the grass.
- Don’t swat at or run from bees. Gently brush them away or wait for them to leave on their own.
- Don’t drink from open soda or cans. They attract bees.
- Cover outdoor garbage cans with tightly fitting lids.
- Avoid sweet-smelling perfumes and colognes and brightly colored clothing, which attract insects.
- Be careful when you do yard work. Wear socks, shoes, and gloves.
- Use screens on doors and windows.
- Keep car windows closed.
- Wear long pants and long sleeves outdoors.
If you’re allergic to bee stings, ask your doctor if you should carry epinephrine shots with you. Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace.
Also talk to your doctor about allergy shots, or “immunotherapy.” It’s a way to very slowly get your body used to an allergen, so you won’t have as bad a reaction if you’re stung again.
To access your AWP EAP services, call 1-800-343-3822. Your EAP is here to help with family, work, health and legal issues. EAP Services are provided at no cost and are 100% confidential.
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