Q: Our daughter recently had a severe reaction to a bee sting. She developed hives all over her body and became short of breath. She had to be treated at the local emergency department. She was prescribed an injectable medication if a sting occurs again, but we are afraid to let her go outside. Is there anything we can do to avoid future stings?
Stinging insects are not only a nuisance but can be life-threatening if a person is allergic to the insects venom. A typical reaction to a sting, in a non-allergic individual, includes redness, swelling and itching at the stings site.
Some individuals may have a more severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include generalized itching and hives, swelling of the throat or tongue, shortness of breath, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and dizziness. If treatment is delayed, it can progress to shock.
If a person has two or more symptoms of anaphylaxis following a sting, then he should seek immediate medical treatment. If a venom allergy is suspected, then a follow-up consultation with an allergist is warranted. At the allergists office, testing can be performed to identify specific allergies. In some cases, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be another option.
Although stings are not always avoidable, these few simple steps are advised:
• Wear shoes when outside.
• Avoid brightly-colored floral patterns on clothing.
• Do not wear strong perfumes or cologne.
• Avoid loose-fitting clothing (insects can get trapped inside a loose garment).
• Beware of open soda cans, cups with straws and garbage cans (common hot spots for bees).
Individuals who are allergic to stings should always carry an auto-injectable epinephrine device. Even if symptoms improve after injection, allergic individuals should be taken promptly to the nearest emergency department for further management.