My husband endured several bee stings recently and I documented his experience so that I could share it with others. I found it fascinating that every person we came in contact with who saw the results of the bee stings asked two questions (1) If we were going to seek medical attention and (2) If we were going to stop keeping bees. It turns out that most people think severe swelling means you are allergic to bees. If it wasn't for my beekeeping course a year ago I would think the same thing. One myth I was told growing up is that the more you are stung the more allergic you become. When I was stung in the back once and it swelled about the size of a golf ball and itched for 4 days my mother told me I was allergic and should carry an epipen.
So I thought, since there are so many misconceptions about bee stings, I thought I'd clarify a few things I've learned. I have followed up my list of things to know about stings with a few pictures I took of my husbands hands as he recovered from his bee stings.
#1 Less than 1% of the population has a systematic allergy to honeybee stings.
#2 If you are allergic you will experience some or all of the following symptoms: rash or hives, swelling that is not in the area of the sting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms after being stung seek medical attention immediately.
#3 An allergy is NOT: pain, swelling, redness, and/or itching.
#4 When stung by a honeybee you want to remove the stinger immediately by scraping and not pinching or pulling on it. Pinching or pulling the stinger forces more venom into your body and your reaction can be worse.
#5 The venom from a honeybee is different than that of a wasp, hornet, or other type bee such as a bumble bee. If you are allergic to one it doesn't mean you are allergic to the other.
#6 Honeybees, because their stingers are barbed, can sting only once and die shortly afterwards. Wasps & Hornets have smooth stingers, therefore, can sting several times.
#7 Honeybees generally do not sting when away from their hive. Unlike wasps and hornets that will sting unprovoked.
#8 Most physicians know very little about bee stings and have a tendency to diagnose allergies when none exist.
#9 The more often you are stung by a honeybee the less symptomatic you become.
#10 Honeybee stings are being used in place of some types of medical treatment for MS and arthritis. (Bee Venom Therapy)
DAY ONE OF BEE STINGS (This is the result of 2 stings previously thought to be 3). Hour after being stung. The two stings happened on the knuckle of the hand.
DAY TWO AFTER BEING STUNG (The pain from stings is the worst on day two. The skin is stretched to its max so there is lots of ache and itching).
DAY THREE. Not as painful but just as swollen. Still itchy. Swelling has stopped at the elbow.
ONE WEEK AFTER STING (A new youthful hand. How weird is that?!) The hand on the right is the one that was stung.
We figured a few things about the stings. One: the swelling may not have been so bad if my husband had removed the stingers faster. He spent a lot of time looking for something to scrape them off with, I'd say about 2 minutes too long.
Two: Although he ran to the store to buy benadryl and used ice packs for 3 days it only helped in the way of pain (the ice more than the benadryl). The swelling seemed to hang around until we figured out that elevating the hand worked quite a bit.
Now all he has to do is get stung in the other hand so both can be wrinkless :)