How to handle a bee-sting before it’s too late

Bee sting anaphylaxis

Bee in flower with pollen

Did you know that with bees emerging from hibernation in early summer, bees and wasps usually max out their living space as fall is just beginning? This can make some species more aggressive as they are preparing their queen for winter! While it’s lovely to watch these creatures fly from flower to flower pollinating our plants and making honey, bee stings are still a common outdoor nuisance.

For most of us, bee stings are just annoying. But, if you're allergic to bee stings, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment. Let’s take a closer look at what to do if you or a loved one has a serious bee sting reaction.

Bee sting reactions

Once a bee stings you, you could experience a variety of symptoms. Generally, though, most people will feel some immediate pain and notice redness and swelling directly around the sting site. Some people will have a large local reaction, which means that if they get stung on their wrist, their whole arm will swell. This reaction looks much worse but is actually no more serious than a normal swelling reaction.

In rare cases, some people will have a serious allergic reaction to a bee sting. These stings will also lead to immediate pain and redness, but can also be combined with:

  • A red, itchy rash
  • Swelling of the face, throat or tongue
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Rapid pulse
  • A sharp drop in blood pressure, which can lead to dizzy spells or fainting
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Loss of consciousness

A sting followed by a combination of these symptoms is what is called an anaphylaxis reaction, and can be potentially life-threatening.

Treating a severe reaction

If you or someone you are with shows one or more signs of a severe reaction, it is important to act quickly and get the help that is required. There are a few simple steps that you can take to save a life.

Call 911. Anyone experiencing one or more symptoms of anaphylaxis should get to an emergency room as soon as possible. This is true even if they have self-administered epinephrine.

Use epinephrine. Severe reactions require an urgent shot of epinephrine, which temporarily reverses the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. If someone knows that they are allergic to bee stings, they should travel with an epinephrine injection device, which is also known as an EpiPen. If they have an EpiPen, it should be used immediately. If they do not have an EpiPen, let emergency services know that they need a shot of epinephrine as soon as they arrive.

Wait for emergency services. While waiting for the emergency services to arrive, the person should lay on their back with feet elevated. Doing so will help to counteract weakness and dizziness by assisting blood flow to the heart.

Go to the hospital. It is very likely that the affected person will be taken to a hospital or clinic for further care. Doctors may also administer oxygen and intravenous fluids depending on the severity of the reaction.

If you would like to learn more about how to keep your friends and family safe this fall you might be interested in taking our Standard First Aid Course. This course will prepare you to take of people who are injured or in a serious condition until professional medical help arrives.