Bee Sting Symptoms
Some insect bites, like mosquitoes, are obvious a mile away. Others, like spider bites, we can never be sure of because the symptoms vary depending on the species. The same applies to stings. No two are the same, so it can be difficult determining what has stung you.
Bee stings are like spider bites, though to a lesser degree. It’s not always obvious that you’ve been stung, and different bees will cause different types of damage. Bee stings range from mild pain for a few hours, to severe (and life-threatening) allergic reactions. Here’s what to look out for, so that you can effectively treat bee stings.
There Might Not Be a Stinger
An important fact to keep in mind is that honeybees are the only ones who will leave stingers in your skin. This is because their anatomy works against them. Honeybees have barbed stingers, and our skin is too thick for them to retract from.
If a honeybee stings a human (or any other thick-skinned mammal), the barbs latch on to us. When the bee tries to pull away, the stinger gets stuck and rips away from the honeybee. This is also the reason why honeybees die shortly afterward. The internal damage it causes is too severe for them to survive.
Other bees don’t have this problem. Their stingers aren’t barbed, and so won’t get caught in our skin. This means that you won’t always be able to tell it’s a bee sting by the stinger, and also that you’re at risk of being stung multiple times by the same bee.
Bee venom, on the other hand, has similar symptoms no matter the type of bee that has stung you. While the reaction you have to bee venom could vary, it will leave common symptoms that will prove you’ve been stung.
Mild reactions are no cause for concern. They’re painful and irritating to deal with but won’t require much more than home remedies to cure. If you’ve got a single sting, and aren’t allergic to bees, you’ll probably experience mild symptoms. These include:
- Sharp, burning pain at the sting site
- Redness where you’ve been stung
- Minor swelling or small welts around the sting
- Slight itchiness
These symptoms don’t require medical attention and will go away within a few hours (or at most one or two days) without intervention. Still, it’s better to tend to it with appropriate treatment so it remains clean, and you lessen your pain and inflammation.
If there is a stinger left, remove it before you take care of the sting. This is usually as simple as applying ice, herbal remedies, or medicinal painkillers to it.
Keep in mind that you could experience mild symptoms that worsen over time. Pay attention to your sting so that if it changes, spreads, or intensifies you will know to take action.
Moderate symptoms don’t differ much from a mild reaction, but they are more intense and will last longer. You might not realize that you’re having a moderate reaction at first. It’s also possible that severe symptoms are brushed off as moderate. Take care to monitor your symptoms so that you know when to get help.
If you’re having a moderate reaction, you will experience all of the mild symptoms but they will grow or intensify instead of subsiding. Extreme redness, itching, and swelling could also be moderate so long as they don’t spread to other parts of your body.
Moderate symptoms can last for as long as a week. Treating them is the same as mild symptoms, though your need for medication will be exaggerated. If it becomes unbearable, it won’t hurt to visit a doctor. This isn’t always necessary, though, and it’s up to you whether or not it’s worth it.
Trust your gut, and as I mentioned, pay attention to your sting. It could become severe, and that’s when you shouldn’t ignore it.
Ignoring severe symptoms could be life-threatening, or fatal. Most of us don’t have to worry about having a severe reaction to bee stings. If you’re allergic, however, stings become a medical emergency.
With mild and moderate symptoms, you can attend to them on your own. In the case of severe symptoms, all that you can do is remove the stinger if necessary and seek urgent medical attention.
An allergic reaction to a bee sting can cause something called anaphylaxis and it can be deadly. On top of that, everyone should know that bee venom allergies can develop, even if you didn’t have one before.
Severe symptoms can also show if you’ve been stung several times. Beyond mild or moderate symptoms, look out for:
- Extreme itching, hives, a rash, or discolored skin both around the sting and on other parts of your body
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling that spreads, particularly to your face, tongue or throat
- Changes in your pulse, be it rapid or slowed
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Fainting or a complete loss of consciousness
You could experience only a few severe symptoms, but that does not make it any less of an emergency. Get help right away.
As mentioned, if you’re stung multiple times or by a swarm, you could experience severe symptoms too. This is because of an excess of venom that enters your bloodstream. Even if you’re not allergic to bees at all, your risk of a bad reaction increases the more you get stung.
Getting stung multiple times makes you more vulnerable to anaphylactic shock, and even seizures. Treat multiple stings like an emergency no matter what.
You’ll also have to remove the stings with a greater sense of urgency. The longer they stay in your body, the more the venom will spread.
We all react differently to bee stings. Bee venom in general, though, will bring about common symptoms that make it easier to identify. Some stings will be mild, with no cause for alarm, others could be life-threatening.
It’s important to know what you’re dealing with so that you can effectively manage your sting. If you’re allergic or experience any of the severe symptoms, you’ll have to get medical attention.