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Dr. Anderson: When a Bee Stings

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Dr. Anderson: When a Bee Stings

Dr. Anderson: Bee Stings
Doctor Eric Anderson, a charter diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice and a former president of the New Hampshire Academy of Family Physicians, is a regular contributor to Travel Tips 'n' Tales. He is widely traveled and published, having written a travel health column for Travel 50 & Beyond and a weekly online column, Ask The Doctor, for The New York Times Syndicate. Dr. Anderson invites you to send your questions regarding travel health issues to ericmd@lorrypatton.com

Dr_Anderson210.jpg Question: Last summer one of the campers at our tent site created a lot of excitement because she was stung by a bee. She apparently is very allergic to bees and carries shots to protect herself. We now have a baby so I'm wondering if I should be worried. What's the best way to treat a bee sting?
Answer: Get the stinger out fast -- any way. We used to think you shouldn't squeeze or pluck it out as that injects the contents of the sac left on the sting, but recent studies show you don't have to scrape it out with a credit card or a finger nail. Just pull the pesky thing out as soon as possible.
Yellow jackets, honey bees, hornets and wasps all belong to the same family and the poison is the same but bees, of course, die when they sting a human and the stinger gets pulled off their bodies. That's not much consolation when a sting is hurting like Hades.
Wash the area with soap and water and ice it for 15 minutes if you can. Rub in some hydrocortisone cream and take an antihistamine unless that medication makes you sleepy, and you're driving.
Expect the area to get hot, swollen and red, and throb for one or two days. Fewer than one percent of the population reacts badly to bee stings but if you've never been stung before you should stay near a phone and get to an emergency room if you start to feel unwell, especially if you become dizzy or develop a swollen throat or tongue, or get wheeze or shortness of breath, or break out in hives, get chest pain or gastrointestinal symptoms.
It is terribly important to clarify whether a person is just getting a local reaction from the sting or whether other parts of the body, some distance from the sting, are showing symptoms. Distant severe symptoms require injected adrenaline which is what the syringes in the special kit contain.
The big mistake with a child is to label a kid excessively sensitive to bee stings. Such a label will color that child's vacation and life experiences for ever. Examples?
You can't go on a trip to the beach or off on a picnic with such a person unless you have the emergency kit on hand and it has to be fresh and within the appropriate dates. If you are halfway to the beach and have forgotten the kit, you have to turn round and go back for it.
You have to deliver the kit to relatives when the kid visits grandma or give it to your neighbor if your child is going to sleep over. And all the time you are doing this you are giving your child a silent message that he or she is not normal.
The sad thing about all this is, most of the time, if new doctors re-explore the incident in the past that made such care necessary, they find it was often a lot of nonsense: that the child did not have a severe generalized reaction and all those morale-destroying precautions have been unnecessary.
NOTE: Lorry Patton's Travel Tips 'n' Tales would like to remind you to always consult with your personal physician before following any medical advice and to please read the Travel Tips 'n' Tales "Terms of Use" found on the bottom of each page of this website. Dr. Anderson's opinions are not necessarily the opinions of Lorry Patton or Travel Tips 'n' Tales.