View Full Version : Anti-histamine for beestings?

10-21-2007, 04:48 PM
This morning I was working with an old beekeeper who said that bee venom is a histamine, so beekeepers (or anyone else) who gets stung would get relief from anti-histamines. Is there any truth to this? If so, can anyone recommend a brand of anti-histamine? I don't know a thing about them. Thanks.

10-21-2007, 05:04 PM


10-21-2007, 05:11 PM
benadryl I take one before I go out to work the bees not because of stings but to keep my allergies in check

10-21-2007, 07:23 PM
Benadryl in children's form (liquid) as your body will absorb it faster.
I usually don't exhibit symptoms from one or two stings but many make me swell up pretty seriously.
My nurse friend suggested keeping children's benadryl in my bee box and I poo poo'd it until I retrieved a swarm with no gloves.
I got the swarm into the car safe and sound (I'm guessing 10 -12 stings that I was too busy to remove the venom sac/stinger) and drove straight to the nearest drugstore and got the children's Benadryl as my hands were swelling so much I couldn't manage my cell phone.
It definitely causes drowsiness too so keep that in mind. Not good for driving any distance.
Take care,

10-21-2007, 07:33 PM
The above is all good advice. Just wanted to mention that the dosage for adults is 25-50mg. If I don't want to become too sleepy I take the lower dose (25mg) unless I have been stung on the face in which case I take 50mg. I have also heard of folks taking Vitamin C (500mg) before working the bees, but I don't know if there is any validity to the claim that it makes stings more tolerable.

10-21-2007, 08:43 PM
There are also Benadryl and other antihistamines in a cream form to apply to the sting site.

10-22-2007, 05:18 AM
It is my understanding that the body produces the histamine as a defense to the bee venom. The histamine is what produces the swelling. As your body becomes more aquanted with the venom the less the body produces histamine. Some folks who get stung often say they hardly swell at all- I still do when I get a fair number of stings. I guess my belief is that over time your body will adapt to the venom. Just my thoughts


10-22-2007, 05:31 AM
It is my understanding that the body produces the histamine as a defense to the bee venom. The histamine is what produces the swelling. As your body becomes more aquanted with the venom the less the body produces histamine. Some folks who get stung often say they hardly swell at all- I still do when I get a fair number of stings. I guess my belief is that over time your body will adapt to the venom. Just my thoughts

i find that going into fall I rarely swell from bee stings just get a little intial discomfort from the sting itself. In the spring is when I have swelling and discomfort from the stings as the season goes I guess we build a resistance to the stings that deminishes over the winter

10-22-2007, 07:42 AM
I carry a bottle of children's benadryl in my bee stuff kit, but most often I chew up a leaf of plantain and spit it on the sting. Seems to work for the initial pain, if you don't mind the green glop on you.

Ronnie Elliott
10-22-2007, 08:09 AM
I carry a bottle of the liquid Benedryl in my pocket when I work the bees. After removing the bee stinger, I rub a small dab on the sting site, and the symptons vanish.

10-22-2007, 11:30 AM
Yesterday I had a pretty strong reaction to 1 or 2 stings - swelling of my face, hives, hearing distortion etc. resulting in a trip to the ER.

in the past I have been stung many times, with 20 - 30 stings at two separte incidents (stupid kid tricks) with never more than a bit of localized swelling.

Has anyone heard of an increase in sensitivity over time? I thought resistance would go up.

10-22-2007, 12:45 PM
The man I got my hive from was getting out of it because his allergies worsened to the point of not being able to breathe, so it is possible. I hope that's not the case with you. Every body's different. Did you perhaps get stung on a more sensitive spot?

10-22-2007, 04:47 PM
YES!!! You can get more sensitive over long periods of exposure. I don't remember his name but the greatest bee researcher in Britain had to give up being anywhere near live bees.

My best friend growing up, her dad had to give up the family bee biz because of increasing reactions.

Just because you haven't reacted inteh past doesn't mean the next sting won't be dangerous. Carry liquid benadryl!!

10-23-2007, 06:06 AM
Thanks for the info, I had always assumed the opposite, that resistance would go up, not down.

It was suggested that this particular sting happened to land on a vein, or perhaps one stung my head without me knowing it.

I have the benadryl and an epi-pen close at hand now. The ER doc was reluctant to give me a prescription for the Epi-pen till I expained that I had bees in the back yard on purpose!

Thanks again for the info

10-23-2007, 12:23 PM
Good points about the liquid Benedryl, I'm going to add some to my first aid kits.

I'm one of those folks that never used to have allergic reations to bites and stings.
Then about 15 years ago I started having severe enough reactions to tick bites, yellow jacket and hornet stings that the doctor prescribed an Epi-pen.
In addition to the epi-pen and Benadryl, I carry homeopathic Apis mellifica and homeopathic Ssssting-stop gel.
Generally the Apis mel. and Sssting-stop gel are enough that I don't need to use the Benedryl and/or Epi-pen.

10-23-2007, 01:16 PM
Reactions to bee stings are of two types: local, which is due to the toxins in the venom, and systemic which is allergic. Local reactions can also have an allergic component. Everybody is affected by the toxin but only those who are allergic to bee venom have allergic reactions. A systemic reaction (hives, shortness of breath, tightness in chest) is a serious warning. While fatal allergic reactions can occur without any previous warning, anybody who has had a systemic reaction (like me) and wants to continue to keep bees (I do) should always have an Epi-Pen with them when working their bees. While antihistamines are very helpful in relieving allergic reactions, anaphylaxis (a very serious allergic reaction) usually occurs immediately after a sting and antihistamines take way too long to be absorbed and are not of much use in dealing with serious reactions.
By the way, newer antihistamines (such as loratadine, which is generic Claritin) do not cause the drowsiness that Benadryl does.

10-23-2007, 03:50 PM
Yes, you can get more reactive over time. You can also get less reactive over time. And yes, the spot you're stung makes a difference. Last fall, I took a single sting directly under my right eye. She got between my glasses and my face. I couldn't see the stinger until I walked all the way back to the barn and then into the house to find a mirror. By the time I got the stinger out, it was about 4-5 minutes. Within a short period of time, my face turned red and I got welts (about the size of a half dollar) all over my upper torso. Interestingly, nothing on my waist or legs. I took some Benadryl and, about an hour later, it all went away. I felt hot and itchy while I was affected.

So, I expected increasingly bad reactions this year. However, in spite of being stung a half dozen times, I've barely had a reaction at all. Hardly even any swelling and virtually no itching. I have NOT been stung on the face however. All the stings this year have been on the hands or arms....some through gloves.

I always have Benadryl in the house and, when I get stung, I always take some right away. I really don't know if I'm getting more or less sensitive but I do know what a reaction feels like!

Michael Bush
10-23-2007, 04:06 PM
I see why y'all use chemicals in your hives, you use them on yourselves too!

Joseph Clemens
10-23-2007, 04:09 PM
MB, I was thinking that same thing. The chemicals I get are injections of bee venom.

So far, so good, I usually get about a dozen stings when working with my bees, which I do, most days. They often have an initial bite (surge of burning pain), that is entirely too intense -- thankfully that intensely unwelcome feeling usually lasts less than a minute. And, for now, after the initial pain subsides there is nothing else, but the memory. We do keep an epi-pen as well as liquid, and capsule benadryl, though so far we have not needed to use anything.:)

Michael Bush
10-23-2007, 05:07 PM
I've never seen an epi-pen and the only I took Benedryl I was hoping it would help with poison ivy. It didn't. That was decades ago.

10-23-2007, 07:11 PM
An Epi-pen is a hypodermic needle containing a dose of epinephrine (an adrenal hormone with anti-histamine effect). It's a fast mode of administration used for an anaphylactic emergency.
As mrobia mentioned, following a sting, there can be a local and/or a systemic reaction, and anaphylaxis can be life threatening.

The homeopathic preparation of Apis mellifica is made from the bee's venom.
(An extremely dilute dose.)

While I have an epi-pen, I'm pleased I've never had to use it, and haven't used Benedryl since trying the Apis mel.
I do keep all of them in the first aid kit though. I'm too rural to not have a good emergency kit on the ranch.

I also prefer an organic approach (and joined this forum to learn more about organic/natural/non-chemical methods of bee keeping).

Edit to add: In the case of anaphylaxis (allergic response): generally, following exposure (bite, sting, etc.), the faster the onset of symptoms, the more severe the reaction will be.

10-24-2007, 12:00 AM
I take Benadryl with but have not used it. I did get the opportunity to use plantain this year and it worked as advertised. Problem is, not much plantain this year and we only had a short drought. My sister is the only one allergic in the family. She goes with wasps/hornets first (immediate reaction) then bumble bees (slower reaction) and last honey bees (about a half hour before she can taste it and knows she needs to get to the hospital).

I take Claratin and am on allergy shots (no bee) by doctors scrip for other allergies that changed with age. I think my body doesn't know what to do.

10-25-2007, 02:42 AM
Just a note for those of you with the epi-pens - I was talking to a doctor friend about them a while back and she made mention of the fact that they only have a shelf life of twelve months - after that you need to get a new one as the effectiveness will apparently go down a lot.

So far I've only been stung once this season (late spring here now) and the reaction was pretty mild, stinging and itchy for about a minute and localised swelling for about half an hour. Two days later the itchyness came back for a day or so. My father managed to get stung on the bridge of the nose a couple of weeks back and it apparently felt like he'd been hit by a 2x4. Other times he's been stung on the neck or chin and had only mild symptoms so I guess placement makes a big difference.

10-25-2007, 07:07 AM
I carry a bottle of the liquid Benedryl in my pocket when I work the bees. After removing the bee stinger, I rub a small dab on the sting site, and the symptons vanish.
As far as I know oral form of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) doesnt absorb through the skin unless it is formulated as cream, lotion, gel,....
Also be careful diphenhydramine is sedative and hypnotic!!! It is used as a sleep aid.
Better approach to stings is to carry a small tube of cortisone cream. :)

10-26-2007, 12:47 PM
I'm new to beekeeping and my girls have been on their best behaviour until recently, three weeks ago I had a few inside my veil ( by the way who said they would be too busy trying to get out and so wouldn't sting if they got inside your veil,?) I got four stings on the neck and head. Not too bad initially but over three days one on my forehead swelled so badly my eye was closed. I got another on my ankle two days ago. I hardly felt the initial sting and oly had slight redness for a few hours.In spite of antihistamines I have swelling from my toes almost to my knee, and large blisters round the sting site. However, I have found that applting Hydrocortisone cream does help. Think I'll keep an Epi pen handy just in case.