The Deadly Truth about Bee Sting Allergies

No one likes to be stung by a bee. But for the two million Americans with serious insect allergies, a bee sting is more than just a nuisance. It can also cause a serious, or potentially fatal, reaction if not treated promptly.

Stinging Allergies

The presence of bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets are a common occurrence during the summer months. While no one wants to be stung by any of these flying critters, the good news is that for most people, such an incident usually causes an uncomfortable reaction that will resolve on its own without causing any side effects. If you're allergic to bee stings, however, then you're at risk for experiencing much more dangerous consequences.

What You Should Know

The fact is that stinging insects contain toxic venom that they release through their stingers into their victim's skin. If this happens to you, in response to this intrusion, your blood vessels will become wider and this will enable the venom to move quickly through your body.

In a person without serious allergies, this may cause a localized reaction, such as swelling at the sting site, along with redness, pain, and itchiness. These symptoms can last for up to a few hours, and occasionally even longer, before resolving on their own.

For someone whose localized reaction is more dramatic, or who takes much longer for the swelling to go away, the risk of more dangerous reaction occurring in the future exists.

A Dangerous Scenario

If you're at risk for having a more serious bee sting reaction, then the bee's venom may trigger your immune system to spark into action and cause a systemic response. Such a situation can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

The signs that you could be experiencing such a dangerous reaction to a bee sting can include:

  • Swelling and/or hives in large sections of your body
  • Chest tightness and difficulty breathing
  • Swollen tongue or throat
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Severe blood pressure drop

It's also important to note that most people with a bee sting allergy don't experience such a serious reaction the very first time they are stung. The first sting can cause their body to become sensitized and as a result, future stings can suddenly become much more dangerous. That's why it's important to always be prepared for the worst-case situation.

Be Prepared

If you're very allergic to bee stings, or if you're worried about experiencing a serious reaction, it's important to see an allergist and get tested to have your risk assessed. If it's high, you may benefit from being desensitized through allergy shots. Even people with mild allergic reactions can benefit from bee sting immunization therapy, according to the latest research.

You can also take some of the following easy steps to help discourage bugs from coming near:

  • Select dark colored clothing and avoid bright hues since these attract stinging insects to come explore.
  • Skip the perfume when you'll be heading outside, since sweet scents can serve as a magnet for bees.
  • Eat your meals indoors, since where there's food outside, there's usually bugs, including the stinging type.
  • Wear shoes outside to avoid stepping on a stinging bug.
  • If a bee does come approach, try to keep your cool and don't over-reaction, because this reaction can increase your likelihood of being stung.
  • Always carry an epi-pen just in case you experience a reaction.

Also keep in mind that when a bee stings someone in your vicinity, you should move far away from him, since the stinger releases a scent that can attract other insects to come near and put you at increased risk of becoming the next victim.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA)