A bee sting can be gruesome, but it doesn’t affect all of us in the same way, and with a month of summer left, there’s a good chance you’ll be faced with the bugs at some point.
Most bee sting victims will get better after enduring sharp, localized pain for a few hours, but if you’re still suffering, this may indicate something serious: an allergy.
Anaphylaxis UK says you’re more likely to experience a severe allergic reaction if you’ve been subjected to multiple bites in the past.
Winged insects scare many of us, but did you know that in more severe cases you could experience a life-threatening reaction?
MailOnline spoke to Dr Helen Evans-Howells, who runs the private Dr Helen Allergy clinic in Bournemouth and Dorchester, and also campaigns for Anaphylaxis UK.
A bee sting can be scary, but it doesn’t affect all of us in the same way, and with a month of summer left, there’s a high chance you’ll be faced with the bugs at some point.
What does a bee sting look like?
The main symptom of a bee sting is a small swollen bump on the skin.
It may look red and be harder to see on brown skin and on your back, but you’ll still feel it.
This is similar to how a wasp sting will appear on your skin.
Anaphylaxis UK stresses: ‘If you find a bee nest in your home or garden, don’t try to move it yourself. Call your local authority or Beekeepers Association for advice.’
Wwhat to do if you have been stung by a bee
Dr. Helen advised the “scratch, not squeeze” method for bee sting victims.
She explained: ‘The first thing you should do is try to remove the poison from your bloodstream.
‘You can do this by removing the tail end of the stinger with a credit card.
“This can be done at home since you don’t know how long it will take to get to your doctor.”
But Dr. Helen insists that most bee stings are harmless, and that many are not always aware of allergy screening.
What NOT to do if you have been stung by a bee
MailOnline also spoke to Dr Naheed Ali, from Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
She said: “While often a minor inconvenience, bee stings can cause temporary pain and redness and, in rare cases, can lead to serious complications.” Therefore, it is crucial to know how to respond quickly and appropriately.
‘Although it may be tempting, do not scratch the affected area. Scratching can provide temporary relief, but it can lead to complications, including infection.
Instead, opt for a cold compress, a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water, or an ice pack. Apply this for about 10 to 20 minutes to relieve pain and swelling.
He added: “Things like vinegar and baking soda are unlikely to help and could make things worse.”
Take an antihistamine as soon as you fall victim to the winged insect’s venom.
These can be found over the counter and often work like hay fever tablets.
If you feel more pain, feel free to use pain relievers.
The NHS also recommends using a hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching.
You will start to feel better in a couple of hours unless you have an allergy.
Dr Naheed said: “While often a minor inconvenience, bee stings can cause temporary pain and redness and, in rare cases, can lead to serious complications.” Therefore, it is crucial to know how to respond quickly and appropriately.
Signs that it is an allergy
“Most people assume that if they see a large red swollen patch on their face from a facial bite that they are allergic when in fact this type of visible localized rash is normal.
“However, the problem arises if the infection spreads to other parts of your body.”
For example, if you’ve been bitten on your forearm but notice the rash has spread to your leg, this may be a sign that the infection has spread; seek medical attention immediately.
Dr. Helen says that if you’re a beekeeper or live with one, you’re at higher risk for bee sting allergies, but she also stressed that they’re not genetic.
Reassuringly, Anaphylaxis UK explained that if you suffer from food allergies, your risk of having a bee sting allergy is not increased.
Call 999 if:
- You have a skin rash that may include itching, redness, swelling, blistering, or peeling skin.
- you are panting
- Have trouble breathing or speaking
- You feel tightness in your chest or throat.
- Your mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat begin to swell
- You could be having a severe allergic reaction and may need immediate hospital treatment.
- Fountain National Health Service
How an allergy manifests itself
These reactions can last 24-38 hours and Dr. Helen estimates that around 5-7% of the population suffer from bee sting allergies.
Research shows that your risk increases if you have been stung multiple times, or if you are a beekeeper or live with one.
Dr Naheed said: “Being stung by a bee in the mouth or throat can be a particularly frightening experience, given the sensitivity of these areas and the potential for severe inflammation.”
“If this swelling obstructs the airway, it can lead to a critical, potentially life-threatening situation.
The main objective in managing this type of emergency is to ensure that the airway remains clear and to quickly reduce any swelling and call 999′.
How can you avoid bee stings?
Like many things, prevention is better than cure – if you can avoid bee stings in the first place, that’s ideal.
To do this, check your drinks or food for the presence of bees, wear shoes, and avoid bright colors.
And it is important to note that all is not lost.
You can get a referral to allergy therapy free of charge on the NHS from your GP.
This will numb you to their poisonous venom and allow you to relax at your next picnic.