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'Bee' prepared for insect stings

From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

You may not be aware of an allergy until you're stung.

Summer's the season for gardening, playing outside, backyard picnics and just enjoying the outdoors. It's also the season of bee and other insect stings. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 5% of the population is allergic to insect stings. But most people aren't aware of their allergy until they're stung.

Reactions to insect stings (wasps, bees, hornets) range in severity from minor to potentially fatal. In most cases, bee and other stings are only annoying, causing a brief, sharp pain along with slight swelling and redness. Home treatment is all that's necessary to ease the pain. But if you're allergic or get stung numerous times, a more severe reaction (anaphylaxis) may require emergency attention.

Here's what happens when you're stung and have an allergic reaction: Your immune system produces immunoglobulin E, which reacts to the venom injected by the insect. This triggers your body's release of histamine and other chemicals that can cause severe responses, such as:

Itching and hives throughout the body

Swelling of the throat and tongue

 

Difficulty breathing

Dizziness and nausea

Stomach cramps and diarrhea

Rapid fall in blood pressure, resulting in shock and, possibly, loss of consciousness

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