What to do if you or a family member has been stung by a bee.
Bee stings can be very serious and even deadly for those that are allergic. But how do you know if you’re allergic? Allergy skin tests and allergy blood tests are often used together to diagnose insect allergies. Your doctor may also want to test you for allergies to yellow jackets, hornets and wasps — which can cause allergic reactions similar to those of bee stings.
If you’ve had a reaction to bee stings that suggests you might be allergic to bee venom, your doctor may suggest one or both of the following tests:
- Skin test. During skin testing, a small amount of allergen extract (in this case, bee venom) is injected into the skin of your arm or upper back. This test is safe and won’t cause any serious reactions. If you’re allergic to bee stings, you’ll develop a raised bump on your skin at the test site.
- Allergy blood test. A blood test can measure your immune system’s response to bee venom by measuring the amount of allergy-causing antibodies in your bloodstream. A blood sample is sent to a medical laboratory, where it can be tested for evidence of sensitivity to possible allergens.
If you’ve never had a reaction, you can follow the following steps for a minor reaction:
- Remove the stinger as soon as you can, as it takes only seconds for all of the venom to enter your body. Get the stinger out any way you can, such as with your fingernails or a tweezer.
- Wash the sting area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress.
If you’re having a moderate reaction, the following steps can help ease the swelling and itching associated with a sting:
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever as needed. You might try ibuprofen (Motrin IB, Children’s Motrin, others) to help ease discomfort.
- If the sting is on an arm or leg, elevate it.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to ease redness, itching or swelling.
- If itching or swelling is bothersome, take an oral antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton).
- Avoid scratching the sting area. This will worsen itching and swelling and increase your risk of infection.
Think you may be allergic to bees? Take it seriously. Make an appointment today if you have questions or to talk to your doctor about your options.
Tags: alergic, allergies, bee stings, summer, summer health