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Unusually nasty sting reaction

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House Bee

Joined: 12 Feb 2012
Posts: 13
Location: Goshen, CT, USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:46 pm    Post subject: Unusually nasty sting reaction Reply with quote

I set my brother up with a TBH earlier this season from a split from one of mine and introduced a queen which I bought from a local reputable beekeeper. He and his wife both have gotten stung and got severe reactions needing medical help. I also had an unusually nasty reaction from a sting from that hive. Reactions from stings from other hives don't have anywhere near the effect. Any thoughts on the cause? Should I re-queen? Worried that it might have dire consequences for someone who is typically allergic. Thanks
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Golden Bee

Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1551
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote


A friend who has to carry an Epipen around thinks different reactions depend o what the bees are foraging on. Don't know of any evidence for this.

I had my first bad reaction just over a week ago - tongue started swelling so I now have one as well, as does someone else I know who a week earlier had to go to hospital after being stung. I am lucky in that the hospital 5 minutes cycle ride away from where I live has a desensitisation clinic that I will go to if I keep having bad reactions.
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Guard Bee

Joined: 25 Sep 2010
Posts: 82
Location: UK - north Oxfordshire

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 12:39 am    Post subject: Re: Unusually nasty sting reaction Reply with quote

See your doctor who can refer you to a specialist.

My wife began getting worse reactions to stings and eventually I had one too. Saw doctor. Referred to allergy clinic. They did a skin-scrape test which showed no reaction to e.g. wasp venom but increased reaction to bee venom. This took maybe an hour. Proceeded to more sophisticated test - checking blood sample for reaction - had to wait for results. Was told that everyone has a small chance of a bad reaction, ours was increasing.

At this point my understanding may be wrong but if I recall correctly, the allergy clinic explained that it's not the venom itself I am allergic to but something my own immune system makes in response to the venom. So even a small sting means I make this stuff, which my own body then reacts to and a runaway reaction occurs and you have a risk of things swelling, you choke to death etc.

So now I go to a "venom clinic" every few weeks where they inject me with bee venom to train my immune system not to panic when it enters my bloodstream. They watch me closely for an hour then I can go home. (I've seen a couple of other patients have bad reactions in this hour, at which point things get exciting.) After about 18 months of this - it is a five year course - two things have happened. One, my reaction to bee venom has gone right down, I hardly notice it. Secondly, I've become a better beekeeper and don't aggravate them nearly as much, so I think I only got stung once last season.

Here in the UK the medical treatment is free. You're in the States, so it may not be an option for you. I think if I were paying for it it might cost as much as $30k over the 5 years.
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Scout Bee

Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 270
Location: England / London & Kent

PostPosted: Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:54 pm    Post subject: Causes of hypersensitivity Reply with quote

Human hypersensitivity to insect stings is triggered by an antibody called Immunoglobulin E, (IgE), which binds to mast cells in the body tissues. When IgE specific to bee venom reacts on the surface of the mast cell it degranulates (bursts) and releases toxic inflammatory biochemicals like histamine. Its a bit like a biochemical suicide bomber. A strong IgE response in the lungs, cirulatory system or around the throat is very dangerous causing low blood pressure, difficulty breathing and general shock reaction.

The good guys are the Immunoglobulin G, (IgG antibodies), which react with and neutralise bee venom in the blood stream before it can cause an IgE hypersensitivity. Stings are usually a good way of getting solid IgG protection provided the process of developing an IgE immunity has not already completed.

IgG immunity develops to injected venoms or during systemic infections but IgE immunities, like hayfever and anaphylactic responses to venoms, can be primed by breathing in small quantities of pollen or venom respectively. I think this is why close family of beekeepers, exposed to low levels of venom from a beekeeper's clothing, but not actually getting stung, are often the ones who develop hypersensitivity.

My bees have kindly supplied me with a solid immunity to bee venom over the years and I hope family and friends never develop allergic reactions; life would be so dull without bees.

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Nurse Bee

Joined: 26 Dec 2009
Posts: 26
Location: UK, Kent, Gravesend

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:32 am    Post subject: swelling Reply with quote

When i took up beekeeping, my first sting on the back of my hand gave me a forearm like Popeye. a couple of days later when visiting a friend in hospital, a nurse sat me down, examined it, asked how and when and told me to keep away from bees forever.

I take a piriton tablet (anthistamine) half hour before going to apiary for 15 years since and sting no worse than a gnat bite. worth a try?
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