Sting De-Sensitisation

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Mar 30, 2010
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Half way through my second year of beekeeping and I am completely absorbed by it all. However, I was tidying up in the garden on Monday at about 5.30pm when I had a lone bee start to buzz around my head which was very persistent as I tried to move away and ignore it. Eventually it seized the moment and pinged me under the chin. This was about 50yds away from the hive but I had been through the BB earlier in the day and they were a bit teazy. This was only the 4th sting I have had and the 2nd this year. I must have scraped it out almost instantly as I had no real pain at all, just enough sensation to let me know I had been got. I decided to go in for tea at this point and scrounged one of my sons Piriton tablets as a precaution. I have never had any reaction to the previous stings which I considered to be no worse than a nettle sting or even bothered with a tablet. About 5 mins after taking the tablet my arms and chest began to itch and my arms went red and felt as though they were swelling. My wife commented that I looked a bit odd which is exactly how I was beginning to feel. I went and sat on the sofa and then began to lose focus and talk coherently. I began to drift in and out of conciousness and next minute the paramedics arrived. They plumbed saline and adrenaline into me and I started to come too a bit more but by this time I was shaking quite badly. They said my blood pressure had plummeted so no wonder I was away with the fairies. I had not suffered any swelling of the throat/tongue or had any breathing difficulties. Trip in an ambulance, six hours in A&E and I was declared fit and allowed home.

Back to the main thrust of the story. As I am lying in the ambulance hooked up to a drip, oxygen and ecg my wife made the dreaded comment "Thats it. The bees are going". I could have tried the much quoted argument in this forum of "prove it was one of mine" but thought better of it. This is now all up for negotiation but I had heard that you can get de-sensitization treatment. Does anyone have any experience of this?

My proposed negotiation path is to move the bees across the other side of the field with the statement that I have never been stung with my kit on and that whenever we go out of the house all we can hear is the buzzing of bumbles on stuff the honey bees ignore so I can't avoid all contact with bees.

On my beekeeping course we were given lots of information on all aspects of the hobby but from what I remember nothing on anaphalaxis. Maybe the BBKA should come up with a standard handout to cover this rare but potentially serious side to the hobby.

Not meant to be a scare story but be aware that it can happen even if you think you are immune.

P.S. The real reason for not wanting to quit is I have just spent £300 on frames and foundation and as a true Yorkshireman can't bear to waste it!!!!
desensitisation works - in fact bee sting allergy is the thing they get best results with (>90% success AFAIK).

get yourself to GP, get an epipen - merited in your case after needing adrenaline from paramedics - and a referral to local immunology dept.
I had a similar experience about four weeks ago. I was not near any hive and had not been that day. A bee just decided to go for me; it flew at my head and aggressively buzzed and banging into my head. When I tried to duck away it hit me with a sting by the side of my left eye. I was OK for about six hours then the swelling started. Within an hour I could not see out of my eye. The next day the eye stayed swollen and the swelling moved down my face to my chin. The day after it did not seem like going so I went to A&E where I must have been a sufficient horror show to be taken straight in without being triaged. I was given antibiotics and anti histamine tablets and sent home. The doctor said it was an infection rather than an allergic reaction and he was concerned about it getting into the sinuses and then into the brain. Both sets of tablets did the job and I was back at work two days later.

I have been stung on the hand a few times since and there is some local swelling and some discomfort. The area goes slightly black under the skin but after two or three days it goes.

I suppose I don’t react well to the stings, but I think it is not enough of a reaction to warrant any medical treatment. The sting in near the eye is not a good place to get one and perhaps because it took over 6 hours to swell up does point to infection rather than an allergy.

Andy, if Dr S above says to go to your GP, you should take his advice.
flatters - that is par for course for facial stings. it was almost certainly (99.99%) NOT infection.

BUT A&E bod unlikely to have seen many (if any) good going stings and also felt duty bound to treat as if infection due to the potential fall-out if wrong.

life threatening infections via sinuses and veins draining around eye socket are a real but rare occurrence. for same reason one should never squeeze spots on bridge of nose in case they get infected.

i have a lovely sequence of pics i took of myself last year to demonstrate such a situation - the swelling evolves and spreads over 48+ odd hours then subsides slowly over another few days.
There is a whole generation of new beekeepers who have obviously never played in the hedgerows or fields as kids and have never been stung by a bee before. And then they have a bit of a surprise when a bee stings them in a sensitive area and manages to get in the full quota of venom.

one tiny grammatical point though - i think one should say "stang off of a bee" not "stung by a bee" in order to be more contemporary.
Treatment starts in two weeks

Andy - last May I had an almost identical experience to the one that you have described, I was stung in the jugular and reacted the same way. As I generally do my bee keeping alone the bees had to go because I couldnt risk another reaction like that without knowing someone was at hand. However I didnt want to give up bee keeping and visited my GP who referred me to an immunology specialist. The skin test showed no reaction so I was delighted and, whilst waiting for the results of the blood test, got hives and frames ready to start again this year. Disaster - the blood test showed that I was highly allergic and if I want to keep bees I must be de-sensitised. Good news - this treatment can be obtained on the NHS so for the next 10 weeks I must visit the hospital once a week (2 hour visit) and then every 6 weeks for the next 3 years. Husband thinks I'm potty! I recommend that you visit your GP ASAP.
There is a whole generation of new beekeepers who have obviously never played in the hedgerows or fields as kids and have never been stung by a bee before. And then they have a bit of a surprise when a bee stings them in a sensitive area and manages to get in the full quota of venom.

I played in the hedgerows and fields when a kid >50 years ago (eek .. surely not that old? :ack2:). I think in all that time I was stung once. Scottish bees were obviously pussycats then.

So I have no natural resistance to venom..
I was never stung by a bee as a child but was once hammered by wasps but that hardly counts so the proposal that them what played in fields are immune is a little preposterous.

he's not saying that them what played in fields is immune just that molly coddled modern generation is unaware of the joys of childhood injuries.

i'll never forget the horsefly bites i had at 2 and 11. Even a severe local bee sting reaction is nothing in comparison.

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