Does exposure to an allergen increase the likelyhood of a future adverse reaction?
Okay, back story to make that a coherent question – Bee stings do not hurt me. I know I’m being stung, but it’s no big deal. I don’t swell up, nothing. Yay for me, except there was a Giant Evil Africanized Hybrid Pissed-off Killer Bee hive under my hottub that needed killin’. They’re finally all dead, the hive is gone, my exterminator and (very allergic) Giant freakin Marine think I’m either terribly brave or exceptionally stupid, and I’ve been stung 24 times in the last 10 days.
The last sting hurt like hell for a good 15 minutes, and is now an itchy red pea size bump. Damn thing is on my face, too.
Do I need to be afraid of bees now?
This is not a request for medical advice, because if, next time, I have ANY reaction to a bee sting, I will get my fanny to an allergist or ER or somewhere. I just want to know if I should be as blase about bees as I always have been, or if I should actually try to exercise caution around our fuzzy little honey making friends?
I grew up with no real problems with bee or wasp stings, but one spring day my Sophomore year I stepped on a honey bee. It was my third bee sting in two weeks. I had a very bad reaction to that sting. I got blisters on the bottom of my foot, one almost 2 inches in diameter. Ever since then I have horribly bad reactions to pretty much any insect sting. Even a mosquito bite will swell up way past what one would consider normal. So in answer to your question I would say yes. But it’s only my anecdotal evidence.
Anecdotal evidence again, I’m afraid, but the same happened to me.
In fact, I started a thread about it that got some great answers…
I haven’t been stung again since (mainly because I now run away from wasps shrieking like a little girl despite being an adult male) so I can’t tell you if my reactions got any better/worse, unfortunately.
Not all hymenoptera envenomations will necessarily produce the the same response; you might have a different reaction to a sting from a bumblebee versus a yellow jacket, for instance. You might also have different amounts of venom injected into different tissues and get substantially different reactions simply because the quantity was different or the tissue was different. It’s very common to get one sting by a “bee” with minimal reaction and then get stung a different time and have a horrible reaction. This does not mean the third sting will be even worse. A local reaction should be expected; that’s what venom does. It is no more reason to seek medical attention than a local reaction to a mosquito bite.
In general, a simple way to decide whether or not you have a potentially serious reaction to any of the order hymenoptera is to distinguish local versus systemic reactions. We’ll sometimes see horrible local reactions in the ED–the whole forearm is swollen up and red, for instance–but the reaction is local. I give those folks a prescription for self-injecting adrenaline, but they shouldn’t use it unless they get reactions from the next sting that are distal to the sting. Hives, for instance; throat swelling–that sort of thing.
Since your sting is on your face it’s likely to produce a fairly significant local reaction. The skin there is soft and thin, and prone to swelling and redness. It is not a cause for alarm or evidence that you have developed a serious allergy. (Neither is it absolute reassurance that you have not, but I’m only saying that so you don’t get mad if for some reason the next sting overcomes colossal odds and kills you.)
My clinical experience over 25 years of treating severe allergic reactions is that there is a tremendous amount of personality overlay which contributes to the systemic reaction. Keep your cool if you are stung.