Bee Stings: How To Tell If You're Having An Allergic Reaction Or Just Normal One

Posted on: 9 December 2016

Hornets, bees, and wasps all have something in common; they all have stingers, and there's a possibility of them using them on you if you enter their territory. That sting can cause a number of reactions. Many people think some of the regular symptoms are actually an allergic reaction. In most cases, they're not.

What Happens When You're Stung?

A sting can come with various symptoms, ranging from mild to moderate.

  • Pain at the site of the sting
  • Swelling and redness around the sting
  • Itchiness at the site of, and around the sting

That's about it really. Keep in mind the normal reaction to the sting occurs at the site of the sting. Sometimes the redness can spread, and the swelling can increase. A normal reaction to a bee sting can last from a couple of hours, to a little over a week in moderate cases.

You should deal with the sting immediately, but you're likely in no real danger.

  • Remove the stinger (try scraping a fingernail over it)
  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Take acetaminophen if you feel you need for pain
  • An ice pack can help you deal with the swelling and redness

Try not to scratch it. If the sting site itches a lot, then you can use an antihistamine to help with it. If this is all there is to the sting, then you don't have anything to worry about. It's more annoying than anything else.

An Allergic Reactions is a Far More Serious Problem

An allergic reaction to a bee sting comes with far more symptoms. Usually, you will know it when it happens, or recognize it if it's happening to someone else. The symptoms can vary from mild to extremely severe.

  • Swelling of the throat, lips, or tongue
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

These are all signs of anaphylaxis, and it requires immediate action.

  • Stay calm
  • Call 911
  • Take your emergency allergy medication (or epinephrine shot)
  • Remove the stinger

If it's someone else suffering the allergic reaction, do everything you can to help them with the aforementioned steps.

One thing to note is that multiple bee stings can also cause someone to show some of the anaphylaxis symptoms. Multiple stings represent an emergency as well.

If You're Not Sure, See the Professionals

Many people don't know they might an allergic reaction to a sting until it actually happens. If you're not sure, you should consider going in for allergy testing with an allergist or immunologist. That way, you can figure out what you may have a reaction to, and receive the things you would need if you find yourself in an emergency.