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The bees are coming out to play.

What a mild winter we had! Because of these great temperatures, everything started growing early. And just as spring arrived way ahead of schedule, summer has, too. I’m sure you’re already gardening, grilling out, going to parks, hanging around swimming pools, and having picnics.

But you aren’t the only one out enjoying your flowers, your foods, and your outdoor parties. Bees will be very happy to join you.

We all know that bee stings are not a very fun experience. For everyone, they cause pain and irritation at the site of the sting. So what’s the difference between a normal bee sting response, and a bee venom allergy? And which reactions are dangerous?

A normal response to a bee sting (or bee venom) is mild pain, and a red, raised, warm area right where you are stung.

People with any allergies – pollen, pets, dust mites, food, or otherwise – will have increased responses to bee stings and all other insect bites. This means you may have much larger red, swollen areas around the bee sting, and it may itch or be more painful than average. This type of response is called a “local reaction,” meaning all of the symptoms occur around the site of the sting. Even if you swell up your whole arm after being stung on your hand, it’s still considered a “local reaction.” A local reaction, though very uncomfortable and sometimes requires treatment to help it heal faster, is NOT immediately dangerous.

Here’s where we run into trouble. If you have any increased allergy symptoms away from the site of the sting, it means you’re having a “systemic reaction.” Your whole body is reacting, and this can be life-threatening. Symptoms can include hives (red, itchy bumps or welts on the skin), skin redness, flushing, swelling of the mouth, throat, face or body, difficulty breathing, coughing, tight chest, hoarseness, nasal congestion, sneezing, racing heart, dizziness, fainting, vomiting, stomach cramping, and diarrhea. If this happens to you, call 911 and seek emergency medical care.

If you have a history of any systemic symptoms after being stung by a bee, it’s absolutely essential that you carry an EpiPen – an injectable medication that could save your life. There is allergy testing that can confirm a bee venom allergy, so come see us in the office to get checked out.

Here’s to a sting-free summer!

Your neighborhood Allergist,

Nikki Zack, PA-C

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