Doctor's Notes on Bee and Wasp Stings
Bee and wasp stings are the result of an insect injection of a toxin into humans by means of a stinger. Some bees leave the stinger in the person’s skin. The immediate signs and symptoms occur at the sting site and include immediate pain, redness, swelling and itching may occur; many people have no further problems and the sting resolves but others may develop systemic and/or more serious symptoms such as the whole-body itching, hives and swelling of the mouth, throat and tongue. Other signs and symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, chest pain, wheezing, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure and weakness. These symptoms may lead to death. Call 911 if you or someone you know is beginning to show serious symptoms or immediately go to the closest emergency department. If the person is known to be allergic to these stings and has emergency medicine like an EpiPen, use it to treat the patient. Tape can be used to remove a stinger left in the skin.
The toxins and stinger parts cause the problems seen with bee and wasp stings; the more serious symptoms are due to the body’s immune system overreacting to the stinger and toxins.
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Allergic ReactionAn allergic reaction is an overreaction to a harmless substance. Symptoms and signs of an allergic reaction include hives, rashes, swelling, itching, wheezing, nausea, and even anaphylactic shock in severe reactions. Treatment involves avoiding triggers, taking oral antihistamines, applying anti-inflammatory steroid creams, and using an EpiPen.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.