Be in the Know About Bee Stings

Though you may have started thinking about back to school season, summer is still lingering, which means people are still enjoying the warmth outdoors.
One concern you may have while spending time outside is bee stings, and what to do if you or someone you know get one.  

Nick Bellanco, MD, family medicine physician at Kettering Physician Network Primary Care – Sugarcreek says if you catch the bee stinging you, flick it off with your finger. “The longer the venomous material is injected in you, the higher the chance that you can have a bad reaction to it,” Dr. Bellanco says. If you don’t notice the sting until later, it is still a good idea to remove the stinger if you see it lodged in your skin to prevent an infection.

Not everyone experiences a reaction, and not all reactions are a cause for concern. Dr. Bellanco breaks down the possible reactions into three levels:

Local reaction. This reaction is the least severe and occurs in over 90% of stings. You may notice some redness around the sting and that the area is slightly painful. The area may swell but typically will not grow larger than the palm of your hand, or five to seven centimeters. Treat this sting by applying a cold compress or ice pack and take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Large local reaction.This reaction might seem concerning because it is larger, somewhere between five and 10 centimeters. However, this type of reaction does not typically require a visit to the doctor and, similar to the local reaction, can be treated with a cold compress and over-the-counter medication. If the swelling doesn’t subside and you wish to see your doctor, he or she may prescribe a steroid to help with the reaction or direct you to take an over-the-counter antihistamine.

Systematic allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis is serious and typically occurs within minutes. This reaction is characterized by flushing, dizziness, hoarseness of voice, shortness of breath, and swelling of lips, mouth, or face. You may also experience some generalized itching, but that reaction alone is not necessarily a sign of anaphylaxis. Those who know they experience these symptoms should carry an EpiPen and administer it immediately in the event of a sting. If you suspect anaphylaxis, seek medical care immediately.

While the possibility of a systematic allergic reaction may cause fear in many people, the likelihood of a severe reaction is low. “I see a handful of people for bee stings every summer,” says Dr. Bellanco. “The key is knowing the difference between the reactions.”

Though most cases of bee stings don’t result in the need to see a doctor, Dr. Bellanco encourages anyone who is concerned to visit an urgent care or call their primary care physician.

To find a primary care physician, click here.

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