Bee Sting: What is it, what is good for it, what are the ways of protection?
Bee stings are among the most common situations, especially in summer months and outdoors. Individuals who are allergic to bee stings avoid spending time outside in summer. Individuals who have never encountered a bee sting before may be worried about an allergic reaction. While for most individuals, bee stings only result in pain, redness and irritation, some individuals may experience a mild or very severe allergic reaction. In some people, an allergic reaction can be life-threatening or even result in death. This very severe reaction is known as anaphylaxis and is one of the situations that requires very urgent medical attention. If there is no known allergy and severe symptoms do not occur, some precautions can be taken at home after a bee sting. These measures may be primarily aimed at reducing itching, redness and pain. In the presence of serious complications, it is absolutely necessary to seek help from a specialist health institution without delay. With timely drug intervention, the outcome can be quite good even in severe allergic reactions.
What is a Bee Sting? How come?
It is possible to experience mild or moderate allergic reactions due to the sting of various bee species such as honeybees and bumblebees. The risk of developing allergies due to bee stings may be slightly higher in people engaged in beekeeping than in the normal population. Reactions caused by the stings of various insects, especially bees, can frequently be listed as redness, swelling, itching and irritation, in addition to allergies.
Allergic reactions are not very common and cause serious problems in a small percentage of people exposed to insect bites. Treatment of allergy must be done urgently and correctly; because fatal complications such as respiratory arrest develop very quickly. However, fatal complications are not very common. The poison found in the bodies of honey bees and hornets is quite strong and ranks first among the strongest allergic reactions.
When a bee stings a person, its sharp and poisonous sting may remain on the human skin. The sting that is not removed from the body may continue to secrete poison and cause various negative complications in the body for a while after the bee sting. The most commonly involved systems are the skin and respiratory system. Bee venom, which spreads to the body through the bee’s sting, contains protein particles that negatively affect various cell structures in the skin and, most importantly, immune system elements. Due to these protein particles, severe pain, swelling, redness, itching and irritation may occur at the sting site, even in individuals who are not allergic to bee venom.
In individuals with allergies, bee venom triggers the immune system response to cause more severe reactions. These individuals may not show any allergic reaction to their first bee sting when they are first exposed to bee venom. When they are stung by a bee for the second time, they may have an allergic reaction due to their immune system.
In individuals with allergies, when bee venom enters the body, an antibody secretion begins, known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is one of the elements of the human immune system. IgE mainly protects the body from various harmful microorganisms such as viruses and parasites and acts as a barrier. In addition to its protective function, IgE is produced at high levels in the body in response to bee stings and can cause allergic reactions such as skin blistering, redness and itchy rash (hives), edema, severe respiratory system complications, and inappropriate immune response. Most people who are stung by bees may not experience any severe physical symptoms other than discomfort at the sting site. Non-severe allergic reactions; It may cause increasing swelling, redness and itching at the sting site.
According to data released by the CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it has been shown that an average of 62 American citizens died due to hornet, wasp and honeybee stings between 2000 and 2007. (4) Individuals who are severely allergic to bee toxin or have been stung by bees more than once are more likely to experience serious allergic reactions. In such rare cases, a fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis is observed due to bee stings. In anaphylaxis, the body’s immune system reacts excessively and inappropriately to the allergen, causing body functions to deteriorate. Symptoms in anaphylaxis; usually starts within seconds; However, this period may cover minutes, sometimes even half an hour. Whatever the reason, anaphylaxis is a very urgent situation and requires intervention in a hospital. The most common symptoms of anaphylaxis can be summarized as follows.
- Hives (red, raised and itchy patches on the skin)
- A flushed and exhausted face
- Swelling of the tongue and obstructing the airway
- Shortness of breath
- Cough and wheezing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain, cramps and diarrhea
- Confusion, Syncope (Fainting)
- Come (2)
If at least one of the symptoms listed is observed or if there is a history of anaphylaxis before, a healthcare provider should be consulted without delay.
What is Good for Bee Stings?
In cases of ordinary bee stings that do not cause an allergic reaction, various measures taken at home are usually sufficient if correct diagnosis is possible. In addition, if you are stung by more than one bee or if you have any of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, immediate medical attention is required. When allergic reactions occur, emergency medical attention often includes the administration of adrenaline (epinephrine). If breathing or heart stops during an anaphylactic reaction, basic life support (cardiopulmonary resuscitation – CPR) should be applied. (4)
Providing oxygen support along with adrenaline administration is also very important for the continuity of breathing. Various medications such as antihistamines, glucocorticoids (cortisone), and beta agonists can also be administered by a specialist doctor to reduce damage to the respiratory system and facilitate breathing. The drug form known as epinephrine auto-injector can be prescribed by an allergist in the presence of a known bee allergy and can be administered without delay in the event of anaphylaxis by educating the patient or the patient’s relative. Auto-injectors are a savior that allergic individuals and individuals with a history of anaphylaxis must have with them. The use of this needle, which automatically provides adrenaline injection, will be explained to the patient by the specialist doctor. (3,4)
It is important to check up with an Allergy and Immunology doctor at regular intervals to obtain information about performing some allergy tests, making and implementing prevention and treatment plans effectively and accurately, and applying allergy vaccines (immunotherapy) in necessary cases. In case of simple bee stings, carefully removing the sting from the skin, washing abundantly with soap and water, applying ice, avoiding infection and not scratching the area to prevent deterioration of skin integrity are among the main ways to follow at home.
What are the Ways to Prevent Bee Stings?
In the presence of previously known bee sting allergy, individuals may be advised to carry an emergency response device prescribed by an allergist during outdoor excursions. The immunotherapy approach known as allergy vaccination may also be useful in some individuals with severe reactions. Avoiding very bright and light-colored clothes may also be among the precautions that can be taken. Flower-scented perfumes and deodorants are also not recommended for allergic individuals. Especially food smells; It may be necessary to be more careful and protected in situations such as cooking and eating, as it will attract flies, insects and bees.
In many cases of bee stings, redness, swelling and pain occur; It becomes apparent within a few hours. It is expected that the symptoms seen in the stung area will subside within a few days. Individuals who have previously had allergic reactions due to bee stings or in cases where allergy is suspected after a bee sting should seek medical attention immediately. Various anaphylactic reactions, such as severe rash, increased heart rate, low blood pressure and breathing difficulties, require rapid diagnosis and treatment as they can be fatal. In rare cases, the stung area may become infected and cause bigger problems. In these cases, good results can be achieved with antibiotic treatment planning by a specialist doctor.
Honeybee stings, in particular, can cause severe pain and suffering. However, in normal bodies, this situation is short-term and temporary. It is important to stay calm after a bee sting. If the bee’s sting is visible, it may be necessary to remove it carefully and without tearing it apart. Afterwards, washing with plenty of water and soap is also among the recommendations. Various suggestions such as ice or cold compress application, aloe vera gel, lavender oil can be used from time to time. When experiencing unexpected symptoms that do not improve within days, it should be known that home methods are insufficient and professional health support should be sought.