Whew! It has been a crazy month around my house. Did you know that someone can develop a sudden severe bee sting allergy? I just found this out the hard way…

i don’t have a bee allergy, right?

It was a pretty Sunday afternoon, and two of my kids and I were checking our bee hives. We had closed everything up, and I walked back to our house to discuss a few things with my husband. I always make sure that no bees are lingering around me when I remove my suit. It was such a pretty day that instead of going inside, I just removed the veil and sat on the back porch for a bit.

I was talking to my husband and watching the kids play in the yard when I saw and heard a group of bees coming straight for me. They appeared out of nowhere, and before I could even move, one had stung me on the face.

I have always swelled at the sting site but can usually take Benadryl and use the After Bite Itch Eraser Pen and be fine. Benadryl makes me so sleepy that I decided I would wait until closer to bedtime to take it. I removed the stinger and then got an ice pack to hold on my face to help ease the swelling.

As I was sitting with the ice pack on my face, I suddenly started itching all over. I looked down, and my wrists were starting to swell and were very red. I walked back to the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and realized that I had red splotches all over my chest and back. My face was getting bigger by the minute. I decided I probably shouldn’t tough it out any longer and took Benadryl.

bee sting: benadryl or emergency room?

I took the Benadryl and was hoping that it would kick in and stop the itching. The longer I waited, the worse I felt. I started coughing, and I was losing my voice. At that point, I decided that I probably needed to get to the ER to get checked out. My husband got the kids situated and drove me to the ER. By the time we got there, the coughing had gotten a lot worse, and I couldn’t talk. Thankfully my husband had taken me and was able to answer all the questions at registration. 

The triage nurse took one look at me and decided that she would take me straight back and continue her workup from the room. This allowed the other nurses to go ahead and begin setting the IV to push a steroid and antihistamines while completing their workup. They immediately started monitoring my vitals, and my blood pressure was very high. 

When the doctor came in to check me the first time, my tongue was so swollen that he had to hold it down with a tongue depressor to be able to check my throat. The steroids and antihistamines started working very quickly after being administered through the IV. The combination they gave me brought my blood pressure back down, some swelling started going away, the cough went away, and I could talk again. 

The ER doctor gave me a steroid pack to take for the next week to help with the swelling and suggested that I follow up with my regular doctor to see if I would need an EpiPen. The next day I contacted my doctor through the patient portal, and she immediately sent in an EpiPen prescription. 

bee swarm season

It is swarm season in East Tennessee, and we have to check the bees more often. We were catching swarms at our house and helping catch swarms for a friend while they were out of town. I had some mild anxiety going back into the bees the first time, but I took my EpiPen with me and continued on to work with the kids. 

On Wednesday, three days after my ER visit, I was stung on the hand with one of my gloves while helping the kids catch a swarm. I immediately went to the house to take Benadryl and ice it. My finger was swollen, but I didn’t have a whole-body reaction. When I saw that I wasn’t going to react like I had the last time, I sighed in relief, and so did my kids. I decided it was probably best if I didn’t go back out that day, so two of the kids finished catching the swarm. 

The next weekend, the kids and I went back out to check the hives. We had to feed the new swarms that we had just caught sugar syrup and needed to check some things in our old hives. My kids call one of the hives the “hateful hive,” and we always save checking them for last. We were finishing up and restacking the boxes when I realized that I had bees inside my suit and crawling on my face. 

Not wanting to get stung in the face again, I started walking toward the house to try to get them out. My daughter was following me to help get them out of my hair. Before I could get my veil off, I got stung on the face. 

a ton of bricks

I removed my veil, took my hair down out of the ponytail, and my daughter brushed the rest of the bees out of my hair. I went straight into the house to take Benadryl. 

The kids closed up the hive and immediately came in to check on me. My husband stopped what he was working on and came in to keep an eye on me, too. They had me check my blood pressure, monitor my oxygen with a pulse oximeter, and wait to see what would happen. 

Within 30 minutes, I started coughing, and the kids said my breathing sounded funny. I checked in the mirror. This time, instead of having red splotches on my chest and back, it was solid red. We decided that we shouldn’t wait and should go on to the ER before it got worse. 

I had my EpiPen but wasn’t sure if I should use it. We are twenty-five minutes from our closest ER. We have always been told you need to get to the ER immediately if you use the EpiPen. My husband was driving, and once again, I started coughing so much that I lost my voice. About halfway to the hospital, he decided that I needed the EpiPen. While at a stop sign, he read the directions and administered it. Afterward, he called the hospital Emergency Department to let them know we were on the way, and he had already given me one EpiPen. 

Within just a few minutes, I could talk normally again. I was shocked at how quickly it worked. 

A few minutes later, the adrenaline hit me like a ton of bricks. I started shaking uncontrollably. I’m fairly certain that gave my husband a scare. We made it to the hospital in record time. 

bee sting allergy symptoms to the front of the line

Since he had called ahead, there was someone waiting at the door with a wheelchair. They took me straight back to the trauma room while my husband parked and then filled out the registration paperwork. 

The nurses set an IV to push the steroid and antihistamines quickly, so I didn’t need any more epinephrine. Once they had my vitals stabilized, they moved me out of trauma and into a regular room. The doctor on duty came in to examine me. We were both shocked to see each other again. It was the same doctor that had been on duty the weekend before. He was so

shocked to hear that the bees that were stinging me were from our hives, he walked straight out of the room. 

About ten minutes later, he returned to tell me two things. First, if I was going to continue to work with bees, I needed a roll of duct tape to cover any openings in my suit and wrap tightly around the openings at my hands and feed. The second was to caution me that now that I was having whole-body reactions, any additional stings would worsen the reaction. I assured him that the one shot of epinephrine was all I needed to never want to go through that again. I was officially a “retired” beekeeper. 

For now, we still have the hives in our field. The kids and my husband have taken over all of the hive maintenance. The kids have successfully caught swarms by themselves while I watched from the house. I promised everyone that I will stay safely inside the house when anyone is working in the hives.

the official bee sting allergy symptoms

Researching more into bee sting allergies, the swelling I had that would last several days is classified as a Moderate Reaction by the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic lists the following symptoms of a severe reaction: 

  • Skin reactions, including hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness

You can learn more about bee sting allergies from the Mayo Clinic here.

You can learn more about our bee adventures here.

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