Healthy Living: Bee stings
Do you like flowers? So do bees. Marcie Fraser tells you what you need to know about bee stings.
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Approximately two percent of people have a life threatening allergy to bee stings, but if you've already been stung and did not have a reaction, it doesn't mean you are in the clear.
"I think they are underreported. I think there are probably more bad reactions than we are aware of," said Dr. Terese Copeland, allergist.
When it comes to bee stings, if you believe you can only be stung once by the same bee, you're only partially right. For instance, honey bees may sting only once, but that is only when they have the unfortunate luck of having their large, barbed stinger get lodged into your skin. When that happens, it rips from the bee's body and kills them.
However, other bees like yellow jackets and wasps, have smaller barbs which seldom get stuck, allowing them to sting you more than once. For the majority of people, a bee sting leaves behind a local skin reaction with swelling and itching. It is not dangerous, but a more systemic reaction could be a fatal.
"Feeling like you are going to pass out, someone who actually drops their blood pressure, someone who has a throat closing sensation, or tongues swells, they're hoarse because the vocal cords are swollen, wheezing, any asthma complications, anything that suggests the air way, certainly makes you worry about that," explained Dr. Copeland.
Some bees are meaner than others. Honey bees and bumble bees are the least aggressive, whereas hornets, yellow jackets and wasps are nasty.
Even if you didn't knock over a hive, if you tick off one bee, the others will surely come out and defend. There is a release of alarm pheromones that indicate distress, and attract other bees to the location to fight off the threat. If you are stung, remove the stinger as soon as possible and use a cold compress.
If you do try some of the home remedies, including baking soda, toothpaste, and even copper pennies, keep in mind that it may reduce the swelling, but it won't take care of the pain.
If you are concerned you may be highly allergic, be sure to contact an allergist for testing, and perhaps get a self-injectable epinephrine pen.