As bothersome as they are to most, bee stings can be much more than a nuisance to those with severe allergies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year between 40 and 50 people die from anaphylactic shock resulting from severe allergic reactions to bee stings.
Bee stings cause the body to react with pain, swelling or itching at the site of the sting; this is true for most people. However, for those who suffer from severe allergic reactions, a bee sting causes an overreaction of the immune system, whereby their bodies release antibodies to fight what it perceives as a dire threat. The chemicals released by the antibodies attack not only the site of the sting but also surrounding areas and cells throughout the body. In a worst-case-scenario, this overreaction can lead to anaphylactic shock and, ultimately, death.
The best way to prevent an allergic reaction to a bee sting is to avoid the sting itself. While this may sound overly simplistic, it is the soundest advice given to people whose life may truly depend upon it. In your home and yard, be certain to discourage nest building by keeping brush clear and giving immediate attention to any hive formations. Avoid flowering plants, or at least being near them at their buzzing peak. Sweat and sweet scents attract bees, so shower and wear clean clothing, but avoid perfumes, scented soaps and deodorants. Cover your body with light clothing when outdoors. Do not swat or run from a single bee; you may irritate it and it will sting in defense.
For most people, a bee sting can be treated rather simply. She will feel the sting, followed by pain and itching. There will be swelling at the sting site. Remove the stinger and wash the area with soapy water. Apply ice to reduce the swelling.
Because often a person doesn't even know if he is allergic, it is important to look for signs of a dangerous reaction. Even people who were previously stung without exhibiting allergic reactions may suffer a reaction on a consequent sting. Danger signs include coughing; itching; a runny nose or nasal drip; a metallic taste; stomach pain or nausea; swelling beyond the sting's site, particularly if it extends to the face and neck; a sudden rash or hive outbreak; difficulty in breathing; a sudden drop in blood pressure; and passing out.
If a person who has been stung is exhibiting any of the above signs, get help immediately. Find out if the person has an epi (epinephrine) pen. Someone who is aware of an allergy to bee stings will likely have this life-saving medication on hand. Take it from her and administer it with the injector. If, however, this is his first negative reaction, you must get medical attention as soon as possible by calling 911.