Reprint from Bee Venom:
Exploring the Healing Power by Mihály Simics
Apitronic Publishing, Calgary, AB., Canada, 1994, ISBN -9697654-0-1
Bee venom has many different effects on the human body.
This is based on the total effect of the bee venom. The person who is not
hypersensitive to bee stings can tolerate one to five stings at a time. This is
followed by minimal local symptoms accompanied by swelling, redness and
itchiness of the skin. Initially, the symptoms are little painful but later
change to a pleasant and warm sensation. Fifty to one hundred stings can cause
a cramp, temporary shortness of breath, the skin turns blue or rapid pulse and
symptoms of temporary paralysis follow. Two hundred or more bee stings can
cause paralysis of the respiratory system. Some people can tolerate more than
1,000 stings. In one case it was noted that an unfortunate individual received
2,243 stings and stayed alive. Many adults have received a thousand stings and
survived. A rough estimate would be that the LD50 on adult humans is about
1,000 to 1,100 stings. On the other hand we know from reports that 100 to 300
bee stings have had a fatal effect on some unlucky individuals. Sometimes to a
person who is hypersensitive to bee venom only one sting can cause a serious or
Bee Sting Allergy
Bee venom, in certain cases, can have very strong toxic effects on humans. Approximately 0.5% to 2% of the population is hypersensitive to insect stings, but often we read reports in newspapers of 4% to 5% as well. These differences come from the various methods used in population studies and what we define hypersensitivity to be. However, the 1% to 2% hypersensitivity ration is accepted by the medical profession. In practice it is very unlikely that the hypersensitive person will get an insect sting, but it can accidentally happen. Unfortunately, during the first sting they are usually unaware of their hypersensitivity. If this happens the victim can have allergic reactions which can result in an anaphylactic shock. This means that the body loses its ability to protect itself from the penetrated foreign material. The blood pressure of the body decreases; rashes appear on the skin; paleness, a rapid pulse, chills, cold skin can follow. In more serious cases there is a shortness of breath, tightness of the heart, faintness and eventually death can occur. It is very important to remove the stinger as early as possible. It is best to remove it with a pair of tweezers, but if this is not at hand it can be done by scraping it with a fingernail or a tip of a knife. Never squeeze the venom sac of the stinger, because the venom will enter the wound. After it is removed, lay the victim down on their back and elevate their feet. If an antihistamine or cortisone product is available, immediately administer it to the victim.
An individual who is aware that he or she is hypersensitive to bee stings should carry an insect sting treatment kit, i.e. Anakit or Epipen. In an emergency or life-threatening situation it can save a person's life. (These kits are available through pharmacies.) Administer the medication by following the directions of the manufacturer very carefully. It is important to contact a physician and get medical attention as soon as possible. The physician will further determine what kind of treatment the victim requires. If someone does not know whether they are hypersensitive or not to bee stings they should get an allergy test done. The physician will do a very simple skin test or a Radioallergosorbent Test (RAST).
The skin test is completed by the following method: the physician doing the allergy test slightly scratches or pricks the surface of the skin with a needle which is dipped into bee venom dissolved in a saline solution. The test solution is available in different strengths which can then determine the level of hypersensitivity. Depending on the reaction of the skin the physician will recommend the appropriate treatment required. This will build up the immune system of the body to protect it from further bee stings.
Radioallergosorbent Test (RAST)
A blood sample is taken from the patient and is tested in a laboratory to determine the presence and levels of IgE antibodies to bee venom. The duration of the treatment determines the levels of the individual's hypersensitivity. The physician injects a small quantity of highly diluted solution of bee venom into the epidermis of the skin and a blister is then formed. This method is repeated by increasing the number of blisters on the surface of the skin and concentration of diluted venom solution. The patient will receive the equivalent of one or two stings of venom without getting any hypersensitive reactions. Very often this kind of treatment can give protection from other insect stings such as; wasp, yellow jacket or hornet.
Elderly people can be more sensitive to bee or insect stings. It is especially suggested that beekeepers who are otherwise accustomed to bee stings during the beekeeping operation take this into consideration. The British Medical Journal (292:378, 1986) reported on two cases which can be of interest to beekeepers who are taking nonsteriod anti-inflammatory drugs. According to this report beekeepers who were previously not hypersensitive to bee or wasp stings took anti-inflammatory drugs and became hypersensitive. In one of the cases the patient had to be hospitalized. After the patient discontinued taking the drugs, the immune system recovered and only the usual local reactions occurred from the bee and wasp stings. Beekeepers should think before they begin any kind of treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs that contain ibuprofen, naproxen, fenoprofen, sulindac, piroxicam, ketoprofen, tolmetin or suprofent.
Simics, M.: First Aid for Bee and Wasp Stings. Apitronic Publishing, Calgary, AB., Canada, 1995, ISBN -9697654-1-X, pp. 80.
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