It’s estimated that between one and two million people in the United States are severely allergic to stinging insect venom. Annually 90 to 100 deaths from sting reactions are reported, but many more deaths could be occurring, mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks, sunstrokes or attributed to other causes. More people die annually from the effects of insect venom than from spider or snake bites.
Extreme human sensitivity to stings resulting in serious or fatal reactions is confined almost entirely to cases involving honey bees, wasps, hornets, bumble bees and ants (Order Hymenoptera).
Unlike most other allergies, insect allergy may cause a life-threatening disruption to breathing and circulatory systems called anaphylactic shock. For one individuals in 100, the sting of an insect may be fatal.
Bee and Wasp Stings – Allergic Reaction Symptoms
Most individuals stung will experience a “local” reaction with redness, pain, swelling and some itching only at the sting site. If the reaction progresses rapidly to sites other than the sting site or is followed by difficult breathing or choking at the throat, the person is experiencing a “systemic” allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) requiring emergency medical treatment.
Don’t forget that when you are stung on the hand and your face starts to swell or hives break out all over your body, this is a serious condition requiring emergency room attention.
Normal Reaction – Lasts a few hours. Sting site is painful, reddened, may swell and itch, but will quickly dissipate.
Large Local Reaction – Lasts for days. Sting site is more painful, swelling and itching might be present both at the sting site and in surrounding areas.
Severe Allergic Reaction – Can commence quickly (in several minutes) after the sting occurs. The whole body is involved. Individuals might feel dizzy (lightheaded), nauseated and weak. There might be stomach cramps and diarrhea. There may be itching around the eyes, a warm feeling or coughing, hives breaking out, followed with vomiting and swelling.
There can be wheezing, difficult breathing (shortness of breath) or swallowing, hoarse speech, drop in blood pressure, shock, unconsciousness and darkened skin following. Reactions may occur in a few minutes with most deaths within 30 minutes, but some within 15 minutes and some in five minutes or less.
Bee and Wasp Stings – Systemic Sensitivity
Doctors believe that once systemic sensitivity occurs, it nearly always increases in severity with each following sting (varies in individual persons). The more rapidly symptoms appear after the sting, the more severe the reaction. (Some beekeepers can no longer keep Honey Bees after a few years due to severe allergic reactions developing).
The problem occurs when some person produce excessive quantities of antibodies in their immune system.
The excess antibody production ordinarily follows the initial sting to which there is no reaction. Notwithstanding, when the individuals is stung again, the insect venom entering the body combines with the antibody, produced by the first sting, which triggers a series of internal reactions, resulting in severe allergic symptoms.
Bee and Wasp Stings
Whenever stung, attempt to capture or know the identity of the insect to help physicians diagnose the trouble. When a bee or wasp stings, it injects a venomous fluid underneath the skin. Honey Bees have a barbed stinger.
Only the Honey Bee leaves her stinger (with its venom sac attached) in the skin of its victim. Considering the fact that it takes two to three minutes for the venom sac to inject all its venom, instant removal of the stinger and sac generally lowers harmful effects. Scrape away with a sideways movement (one quick scrape) with a fingernail.
Never try to use the thumb and forefinger or tweezers to pinch out the stinger since this maneuver forces (injects) more venom from the sac down into the wound.
Wasps, yellowjackets and hornets have a lance-like stinger without barbs and can sting repeatedly. They must be brushed off the victim’s skin promptly with deliberate movements, then quietly and immediately leave the area.