Bee Stings

The Health Center at Northcare (1996)

Most of us have received a sting from a member of the bee family at some point in our lives. In the vast majority of cases, this results in immediate pain, burning, and stinging sensations. In the unfortunate person, who is truly allergic, the reaction can be more severe. Every year in the United States approximately 40 to 50 deaths per year occur secondary to stings from members of the bee (Hymenoptera) family.

Most bee stings result in a well defined area of pain, warmth and the hardening of the skin at least 1cm. in size. This is a normal response. In many individuals, however, a larger reaction develops which peaks approximately two to three days after the sting is inflicted. The larger reaction is usually quite uncomfortable and is often confused with a true infection. Most stings do not become infected but telling the difference between a severe reaction and an infection is not always easy.

True allergic reactions to bee stings involve not only redness around the site but swelling on parts of the body distant from the site of the insect sting. For example, if one is stung on the arm and one develops swelling of the lips and mouth, this represents a true allergic reaction and medical attention should be sought immediately. Similarly, if one develops diffuse hives across the entire body, this also represents a true allergic reaction, medical attention is immediately beneficial. It is imperative that if swelling of the nose, lips and mouth develop of if the victim develops shortness of breath, that medical attention should be sought on an emergency basis.