A sting from a bee to a human being may cause only minor symptoms, or can be life-threatening.
What are the causes and risks of the injury?
Bee stings can occur any time and place that bees are active. In general, bees are active when the temperature is above freezing. Bees are most often found in wooded areas in the spring, summer, and fall but may also live in more settled areas. Bees and wasps like to build their nests around trees and other brush but may also do so on the eaves of houses.
What can be done to prevent the injury?
If you know that bees, wasps, or their nests are in an area, try to avoid them. Avoid actions that agitate or irritate a group of bees or wasps in or around their nests.
How is the injury recognized?
Most people feel a bee sting and often even see the bees or wasps that sting them.
What are the treatments for the injury?
For local reactions, ice compresses can help relieve the swelling and pain. Over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help. In the case of an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine needs to be given as a shot. Those who know they are allergic to bee stings may need to carry a dose of epinephrine when they participate in outdoor activities where bees may be present.
Toxic reactions can be managed by treating the symptoms, and generally improve on their own. Delayed-type reactions can benefit from anti-inflammatory medications.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Epinephrine is a very powerful drug and can cause a change in the regular beat of the heart, called arrhythmias. This drug can also result in a decreased blood flow and can raise blood pressure. If epinephrine is needed for an anaphylactic reaction, the affected person should seek emergency care as soon as possible after the bee sting.
What happens after treatment for the injury?
In most people, the swelling and redness at the injury site will resolve within a week. There may be times when the site becomes itchy, but the person should try to avoid scratching. No unusual side effects should occur after this.