Now that the kids aren’t in school all day, families will spend more time outdoors making memories together over the summer. Summer offers opportunities to run wild outside, swim, go for a hike, and learn new skills at summer camp. 

While playing outdoors, naturally we’ll run into bees, bugs and other insects. Bee stings are a common outdoor nuisance. For most people, a sting won’t cause more than pain, swelling, and redness right around the sting—what’s known as a local reaction. But, for a small percent of the population a bee sting can be deadly. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, insect sting allergies affect 5% of the population.

People allergic to insect stings can suffer a much more severe and dangerous reaction, known as a generalized reaction. Stings in these people may cause anaphylaxis, and can be fatal. In fact, between 60 to 70 people in the U.S. die every year as a result of allergic reactions to stings, according to the CDC. Tens of thousands more have very serious reactions that aren’t fatal.

If you or a child is allergic to bee stings or you get stung numerous times, you may have a more serious reaction that requires emergency treatment. Look for signs of a generalized allergic reaction.

When to go to the ER

Symptoms could develop quickly and may include:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • A feeling of uneasiness, tingly sensation and dizziness
  • Skin reactions including hives, itching, flushed or pale skin
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • A weak, rapid pulse 
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness

People who have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting have a 25% to 65% chance of anaphylaxis the next time they’re stung. People who know they’re allergic should always have access to an epinephrine auto-injector. Adults tend to have more severe reactions than children do, and are more likely to die of anaphylaxis than children.

Multiple Bee Stings

Generally, insects such as bees and wasps aren’t aggressive and only sting in self-defense. In some cases a person will disrupt a hive or swarm of bees, and get stung multiple times. If you get stung more than a dozen times, the accumulation of venom may induce a toxic reaction and make you feel quite sick. Some signs and symptoms in addition to the above include:

  • Headache
  • A feeling of spinning (vertigo)
  • Convulsions
  • Fever 

Multiple stings can be a medical emergency for children, elderly and people who may experience heart or breathing problems.

How to Avoid Getting Stung

The best way to avoid complications from a sting is to try not to get stung in the first place. Here are a few tips to prevent stings while you and your child are outside: 

  • Be cautious when drinking sweet beverages outside. Wide, open cups may be your best option because you can see a bee inside. Inspect cans and straws before drinking.
  • Try not to wear bright colors or floral prints that attract bees.
  • Clear away garbage, fallen fruit, and tightly cover food containers & trash cans.
  • Don’t wear scented perfume or hair spray.
  • Wear closed toed shoes when walking outside.
  • Be careful when mowing the lawn or trimming vegetation. These activities might arouse a beehive or wasp nest.
  • Have hives and nests near your home removed by a professional.

Remember bees and wasps are social creatures. They only sting humans to protect their hive. Most people get away from them by staying calm and slowly walking away. Swatting an insect may cause it to sting. The old rule of thumb is true—if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

Texas Emergency Care Center is here to help 

In most cases, bee stings don’t require a visit to the doctor. In more severe cases, you’ll need immediate care. Texas Emergency Care Centers are available 24/7/365 if you’re having a serious reaction to a bee sting that suggests anaphylaxis, even if it’s just one or two symptoms. No appointment is necessary if bee sting symptoms don’t go away within a few days.