View Full Version : Anxiety or Allergy?

06-20-2010, 07:51 AM
Good day, folks.

Lately, I've been reading a bit about some beeks developing an allergy to bee stings. When I read these posts, I think three things:

1. I'm glad the beek is OK
2. Bummer about developing an allergy
3. I really hope that never happens to me

Interesting story. (at least for me)

I was squatting next to the hives last Thursday morning and a little lady landed on my shoulder and stung me. I'm pretty sure she didn't like the smell of the deodorant I was using. Anyway, I didn't think anything of it. I flicked the stinger out and walked back up to the garage where I was planning on helping my mom re-pot some plants.

By the time I got there (about 30 seconds after the sting) I started feeling extremely panicky. My heart was beating rapidly, I had a huge head rush and felt really warm, you know, like you do just before you pass out. I also felt a little nauseous. I told my mom I thought I was having an allergic reaction to the bee sting and told her how I was feeling. All I wanted to do was sit and try to calm myself down.

I felt secure having someone with me (who also had an epipen) just in case I started having difficulty breathing, so I took a seat on the porch and chilled out for about 15 minutes and everything seemed to be OK.

So, here's the thing. I don't know if I was having an actual allergic reaction or if I was seriously having an anxiety attack. I've had one anxiety attack in the past and they're scary. This felt exactly the same.

If this were an allergic reaction, would these weird symptoms go away after 15 minutes? All I know, is that after I knew I wasn't going to die, I felt extremely wiped out and had to nap for a while. I'm wondering if, after reading about people developing allergies, perhaps I had a psychosomatic response? :scratch:

Bee Bliss
06-20-2010, 08:17 AM
I suppose you could get tested by an allergist to remove all doubt.

My mom has racing heart issues at times. Instead of beating, the heart kind of flutters. This wipes her out physically. Her heart problem is not related to any stings though. My nurse sister has told her to drink a little orange juice to recover and it does seem to help.

06-20-2010, 08:40 AM
I am not sure but I think you are misunderstanding. I think those beekeepers have allergies - they either didn't know it or it was such a case that it only reacts to the sting at times. I don't think you develope allergies to bee stings (could be wrong) - usually the opposite takes place.

The original symptoms you describe sound like you lost some blood pressure when you stood up from the hive (not that unusual). I have noticed sometimes the reaction will take a few seconds to be felt. I think at one point or another everyone has it happen.

Sounds like anxiety attack to me (my brother ans sister both used to have them - I have had one I believe). From what I have seen they seem to be brought on usually from a strange feeling or such and grow to an attack when the person fails to get a handle on it.

I probably will get blasted for this but I am only saying what I have found to be true (through experience)....
I suspect that most can be solved by changing the focus to others and remembering God's Truth. How to help them, instead of worrying about my physical conditions or feelings. (Don't take that to mean I am saying you don't help others - I am only saying I believe this to be a major way to solve these types of attacks).

Hope that doesn't offend - don't want to. Just wanted to post what I think could really help.


06-20-2010, 08:51 AM
as a medic we wont treat for an anaphalytic reaction until we see hives, swelling and or airway constriction. Those are true reaction symptoms. That doesnt mean the venom couldnt make you feel the way it did but i didnt believe thats a life threatning response.

06-20-2010, 09:14 AM
Mike J, I understand what you are saying and I'm not going to blast you for it :)
I just wanted to read any input other beekeepers may have. I'm, more than likely, making a doc appt for next week to at least get an epipen just in case.


Tom G. Laury
06-20-2010, 10:29 AM
The initial allergic response is usually the mildest, and then the reaction becomes progressively worse with each recurrence of stinging. Your description could easily be one of an allergic reaction. Increase in rate of heartbeat, swelling, itching, blotches on skin are all symptoms of allergic reaction.

I once had to take someone to the hospital who was unconscious and had black lips and fingernails. Oddly, he was stung in a woodshop not in a beeyard. Get tested, no joking matter. Keep that Epipen around!

Ben Brewcat
06-25-2010, 09:32 AM
My guess would be anxiety. One year I started off the season with maybe 50 stings and I had some hives (urticaia) remote from the sting sites, but no trouble breathing. I'm atopic and prone to allergy, so I was concerned and at my next stinging event I had the same reaction you describe, mild panic/anxiety attack which passed quickly (but no shock). I never did go on to develop allergic reaction for which I'm thankful!

I'd also recommend some discretion on the doctor front. I've spoken to many people whose doctors told them, on the basis of local swelling, pain and itching (a NORMAL reaction clinically speaking) that they are "allergic" to bees and needed an epipen and to avoid stings on pain of death. I think "defensive medicine" is the operative phrase here. While all beesting reactions are technically "allergic" reactions, what we mean when we say allergy is anaphalaxis from a systemic reaction which is a totally different ball of wax. If your doctor diagnoses you as beesting allergic without a actual challenge test (a scratch test typically), try another doctor. Or just have a cell phone and someone with you and go get stung... I'd bet you're just fine. If you want to be very cautious, catch a bee in a jar and sting yourself parked outside the ER.

The Soap Pixie
06-25-2010, 09:38 AM
As someone who suffers from anxiety I would say it sounds like you may have been somewhat anxious without knowing it prior to the sting. Are you sure that the sting didn't/couldn't psychologically (not physically) set off a panic attack?

You said yourself you've been reading about beekeepers being stung and having reactions. The unconscious is a strange thing sometimes, and I say that in a very caring way as I have anxiety attacks for what I think is no reason at all but with deeper introspection find that something was bothering me at the time.

I was told that a true allergy would be hives, severe itching in places on the body other than where the sting happened, and/or difficulty breathing.

06-25-2010, 12:02 PM
Gonna throw in my 2 cents as this hits close to home for me.
I have never had a reaction to any stings other than localized swelling and itching, this is not an allergic reaction but a sign that you have a good immunity system - this right from my Dr.
Just a few weeks ago I got stung and thought nothing of it, within 5-10 minutes I was getting noticable heart palputations, felt flush and my feet and scalp were itching like crazy (I got stung on my right arm). Within the 10-15 minute range my face was noticably red, my arms were red and itching and heart palputations were continueing. At around the 20 minute mark I was sitting in the ambulance getting an IV inserted into my hand, by this time my upper torso was almost completey covered in hives and my lips felt swollen, I did not feel that my throat was swollen but the medic said it looked swollen.
For the next 2 1/2 hrs I was in the ER getting shot up with several medications, by the time I left I looked completely normal and had no symptoms.
So in answer to your question, yes absolutley your symptoms could be the beginnings of an allergic reaction. You should make an appointment with your Dr to get an EPI pen, better to be safe than sorry and your Dr should set you up to see an allergy specialist, I see mine on monday.
Will my next sting have the same results - I have no idea, what I can tell you is I know somebody that has had to stop beekeeping because of her reactions, last time she was stung she was unconcious within 25 seconds, however she says she only gets a severe reaction about 50% of the time.

Personally I would recomend ALL beekeepers keep a pen handy, and know how to administer it. If you develope a reaction you are not going to know ahead of time.

06-25-2010, 12:45 PM
A safer treatment than epinephrine is anti-histamines. If you inject the epi and your blood pressure is already whacked, they may not be able to revive you. The State of Florida has epi-autoinjection training, and certification because of all the self-misdiagnosis. Even first responders and doctors got it wrong 180 out of 200 times. It is a little better with a crash cart right there. The ambulance ride may be your last trip if your blood pressure was off for other reasons.

The Soap Pixie
06-25-2010, 01:01 PM
A safer treatment than epinephrine is anti-histamines. If you inject the epi and your blood pressure is already whacked, they may not be able to revive you. The State of Florida has epi-autoinjection training, and certification because of all the self-misdiagnosis. Even first responders and doctors got it wrong 180 out of 200 times. It is a little better with a crash cart right there. The ambulance ride may be your last trip if your blood pressure was off for other reasons.

We were told something similar about my sister who is allergic and has an epipen. We were told that if we gave it to her and she wasn't actually having a reaction, she could die.

06-25-2010, 01:10 PM
Epi-autoinjection certification is part of the Florida Master Beekeeper program. I got the certification and Florida license along with first responder certification. That was a motivator but now it is very reassuring with the large workshops and new people exposed to bees every month. I carry a pair of pens to normal classes and more to large workshops with greater risk like the first experience working a hive. I still have not used a one but they are there.

Rick 1456
06-25-2010, 03:43 PM
As a previous post stated, this hits close to home for me as well. They have what's called a RAST test. It is a blood serology test that will tell you exactly what hymenotera you may ar may not be allergic to and also the degree. That's first!!!! I found out my sting allergy when I was 13. Stung by wasps. Hives and welts from head to toe. I had hives welts between my toes. Longer story short,,,,,I took sting allergy shots for years. In college, I majored in entomology. The connection is, I fell in love with apiculture. Got stung, reacted, and sold the hives. I also worked for a wildlife agency for the state of md and I had to take the new hole bee venom shots due to the risk of working alone outdoors. i resumed beekeeping 4 years ago with a friend and I first went to my allergist. I told him I had been stung, no allergic reaction, he gave me two epi pens just in case. BTW, for you that take high blood pressure medicine, certain meds for that will not allow the epi to work. IT WILL BE USELESS IN AN ALLERGIC REACTION!!!!!
On a personal note, I suffer from chronic low level depression and associated panic attacks,,,,or should I say used to. I have AADD. My body chemistry is a little askew so I augment it with the proper meds. Just like insulin in a diabetic patient. Sorry, I'm rambling a little.
I said that to say this, when I get stung, my heart steps up, I feel a flush, my skin tingles, and a cold chill goes up my spine, and I start to wonder, Am I going to have an allergic reation.(think too much about whats going on) But,,,,,I know what's going on because I've been through the allergy tests and am under a Dr. care etc etc. Please contact me if you have any questions you feel I can help you with.
Be Safe
Rick Fisher So Md

Bee Bliss
06-25-2010, 04:22 PM
There is a lot of good information and experiences being related on this thread and a few others which helps people be informed and helps them be prepared to handle the situation correctly. I hope to alleviate fear of getting stung also. Sometimes the unknown is scary.

An allergic reaction to a bee sting would be at least one of the following: difficulty breathing, heart racing, hives way away from the sting site. Use the epi pen if you have one and get to the ER asap. If possible, also take Benedryll asap. Benedryll is important also.

A local reaction would not have the above allergic symptoms, but is rather swelling (even great swelling), itching, redness around sting site, warmth and/or bruising around sting site. It is possible for a local reaction of swelling to cause difficulty breathing just because it is near/in the mouth or neck/throat. Get to the ER for any breathing issues.

Many people (and some doctors) mistakenly think if there is quite a bit of swelling that that must mean they are allergic. That is not true. Great swelling is a sign of a good immune system per apitherapists, etc. In fact, apitherapists like to see swelling as it is an indication that the sting therapy will be effective. Early on in BVT a person may have a great swell and then they no longer get that big reaction as they build up to the bee venom, but the therapy will continue to benefit them.

- Know the signs of anaphylactic shock and how to treat prior to going to ER. (see above)
- Know the symptoms of local reaction to bee sting. (see above)
- Have a plan of action especially if a family member is known to be allergic to bee venom.

- It's true that great swelling is a local reaction and not a sign of an allergic reaction.
- Bee venom is used in BVT for medical purposes. More research is needed.
- An allergy can develop even in previously stung non-allergic people.
- People tend to get worse with each allergic reaction.
- A local reaction is just that, local and not to be confused with allergic reaction.
- Benedryll is very important and should be taken immediately by someone having an allergic reaction; and epi pen should be used in event of allergic reaction. Benedryll can also be used by non-allergic people to relieve symptoms of itching and swelling.
- People can be allergic to wasp stings while not allergic to honeybee stings and vice versa.
- Only 5% of visits to the ER due to allergic reactions from a sting involve honeybees.
- Benedryll will alleviate discomfort. However, the benefit of the bee venom will diminish if Benedryll is taken. (For those using stings for medicinal purposes and not allergic)
- A person can be built up to venom to the point where when stung on a regular basis will have no or almost no symptoms of local reaction of swelling or itching.
- People undergoing BVT get a test sting which is removed almost immediately. If they show no allergy after 20 minutes, they can proceed with the BVT program. They will sting 2 to 3x a week, building up the number of stings each time. There is no need for further test stings unless they go 2 weeks without stinging. In that case, the process starts over beginning with a test sting.
- People can be desensitized to bee venom by an allergist or by BVT methods.
- A person's local reaction to occasional stings can vary from sting to sting.
- Allergic reactions tend to get worse each time.
- Some medications (Beta blockers) greatly reduce effectiveness of epi pens.
- Icing an area prior to stinging it (BVT) makes a big difference in the pain. It takes the big punch and knocks it down (sometimes entirely) and then it may be felt for a bit longer than an un-iced sting.
- People practicing BVT sting the following areas: Spine (nerve pathways), specific locations (joints, etc.) and trigger points along other nerve pathways in the body.

Also, check out these two threads on the Apitherapy forum...

1. Got a sting - BAD reaction - advice needed!
2. Bee sting question

Tom G. Laury
06-25-2010, 08:06 PM
Great Post Bliss. Thank You.

06-26-2010, 07:19 AM
Wow. I was away at mom's house for a couple of days and came back to a TON of great information. Thank you all for such great responses!

I have yet to make a doc appt to see about an epi-pen. Old English, I agree with you about having a pen handy. I think it would be good to have one just in case. I also intend on seeing an allergist, but, most likely, this was anxiety. Still, it's always good to know.

Bee bliss, I'll read the other posts, too. Thanks for posting them and thanks again to everyone for the great advice and information. Hope ya'll have a wonderful weekend.

07-09-2010, 12:03 PM
This post has been more helpful for me than the random bits of info I was able to find on the internet...

I got stung by a wasp yesterday and didn't think much of it as I have been stung before by wasps and also occasionally by my own bees. I iced the spot on my leg, but didn't think to take Benadryl at the time.

I went on working outside with my husband (in 95 degree heat!) when about 20 minutes later I suddenly noticed I was feeling very itchy all over. My husband looked at me and said my face was red and spotchy. The next thing I knew I was in full-blown hives. My ears and the skin around my eyes got red and swollen and I felt like I couldn't hear very well. The skin on my ankles and wrists was red and puffy too, which I thought was weird.

I ran up to the house and took two Benadryl tabs, but worried that wouldn't help fast enough so I crushed one in water and drank it. I poked around for awhile and wondered if I should go to the ER. I looked around on the internet and found that hives (or any itching/swelling/reaction away from the sting site) was a symptom of allergic reaction and finally decided to go see if the quick care was open. I didn't have any trouble breathing, but the thought of the possibility of anaphalactic shock did give me some anxiety symptoms too!

I just started beekeeping a year ago. My dad kept bees when I was little too. I love my bees and am so fascinated by them, I really would hate it if I had to give them up! I've never reacted to them before, sometimes not even a locallized swelling.

I didn't react to a similar wasp sting I got this time last year either, other than a little itchy swelling on the spot on my arm where I got stung. I think what may have affected my immune system and caused this time to be different was that I have had 3 series of different antibiotics in the past two months, two for an abscessed tooth and 1 for bronchitis. I also had trouble with my immune system and recurrent rashes after getting heavy duty IV antibiotics during the birth of my first child.

So, being that subsequent stings can cause worse symptoms (and hoping that I am not going to suddenly be allergic to my bees now too), I am definitely going to call my doctor about allergy testing and an Rx for an epipen.

ETA: After getting off the phone with my doctor and being chewed out for not going to the ER right away, she said I was one step away from anaphalactic shock and was lucky I had Benadryl on had yesterday. She told me that you can still react to the sting for a couple days later and even though the hives are gone to keep taking 25mg of Benadryl 3 times a day. She also phoned me in an Rx for a steroid and made me an appointment on Monday to talk about allergy testing, etc. I gues even though the stupid ER is so expensive, you ought to be safe rather than sorry with a sting allergy.

Any reaction in any part of your body other than the sting site indicates an allergy and subsequent stings can show a worse reaction. If you show signs of an allergy, you should definitely go see your doctor. Your anxiety symptoms may have been only anxiety, but if they accompany a rash/itching on other parts of the body, it could be a symptom of shock. Better to have it checked out than to assume it's nothing and not live to regret it!

07-09-2010, 05:57 PM
Something which has not been covered yet is the following.

If you do have an alergic reaction and need to use you epi-pen due to throat swelling, DO-NOT drive yourself, and DO-NOT have someone drive you for help, call an abulance. Epi-Pens might only last 15mins.


Rick 1456
07-09-2010, 06:11 PM
J 11
Your experience is almost exactly like the one I had. I was 13. Wasp, hot and humid, no prior indications,,,hives everywhere. I know it is scary,,, your Dr. was right to chew on you. It is dangerous and we don't want to believe it is happening to "me". The new allergy programs they have, I think, willl allow you to continue your Beek efforts. You can be allergic to wasps and not honeybees.. Allergist will confirm.
My best to you
rick SoMd