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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Eugene, OR USA
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    Default My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I've kept bees for almost 20 years now and never had a problem. I don't particularly enjoy getting stung and don't go out of my way to encourage it, but usually I get stung a number of times each season, probably less than 50 times per year all told though. Usually the reaction is confined to a local one with minimal swelling if any at all and a red spot that quickly fades. I have just about 50 hives now.

    Yesterday I was working in the bee yard applying meds. Weather was warm, not much breeze, bees seemed in a good mood generally. For unknown reasons one hive wasn't in such a good mood though, as when I lifted one of the boxes off the stack a number of bees immediately attacked. Within a few seconds, I received approximately 10 - 15 stings through my bee suit, on the tops of my shoulders and on my sides under my arms. About 10 minutes later I began to have a systemic allergic reaction. I'm recording the symptoms here for future reference. Any questions or comments feel free.


    Symptoms:

    Intense itching of palms, later spreading to the whole body generally

    Feeling of lips swelling, although this wasn't perceptible visually

    Weakness almost to the point of fainting

    Nausea

    Urge to defecate

    Muscle cramps and intestinal cramps (rather painful)

    Redness of skin over whole body

    Slight feeling of having a lump in my throat

    Visual and acoustic disturbances, notably a "whiteout" of the visual field almost to the point of blindness

    Sense of possible impending death

    --

    Notably, there was NO swelling, vomiting, heart racing, or difficulty in breathing. Previously, I was under the impression that difficulty in breathing was the most common symptom of an allergic reaction. Apparently this only occurs sporadically, or maybe only in more severe cases.

    Symptoms passed completely after approximately 1 - 1.5 hours, with no residual indication of having been stung other than small red spots at sting sites.

    Does this mean I must now be wary of stings forever? Apparently not. Was stung twice more today, with no reaction other than the usual red spots.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
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    Reno, NV
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    2,920

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I know from personal experience that a single reaction of this magnitude can be due to the specific location of a single sting. It may not mean you have in fact developed an allergy, it also may mean you have.

    One thing I will add to your story for the benefit of others that find themselves in the same situation. You should have sought medical help. The feeling of impending death was not just a feeling. You are fortunate that the reaction reversed rather than got worse. I did go to the emergency room during my reaction even though I was already feeling better. The Dr. said he had seen people looking better than I was that died. I thought I was doing fine. It is no joke. had you found it impossible to breath how long woudl have you held out? It is not a situation to wait and see if ti gets worse. if it does it may be to late to do anything. I at times could not walk, talk or see.
    I am very happy it turned out well for you. Still you might want to be examined by a Dr. they put me on steroids for a few days to help my body repair internal damage I would not have known anything about. There was stress to internal organs. Just be careful and It is well you are able to post this thread.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    1,696

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    what it means is be careful. And with those reactions, an epi should have been adminsitered and then medical help sought..
    With those types of reactions, the blood pressure drops causing major problems. The epi is the only thing with will bring you out of it
    In the words of my allergy doctor
    "when the iching is like that, when the lips feel like they are swelling...use your epi now!
    Me: I was still breathing
    Doc: Can't use it if your are dead!"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Franklin County, PA
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    467

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Glad you are O.K. Adam.. That kind of reaction must have been scary. I am surprised you went back into the bees again without talking to a physician. Talk about getting back into the hives with your hive tool. My mom has always insisted she is allergic to bees. She has been stung by Yellow jackets, Not honey bees right in front of me and just had what seemed to be a normal reaction. She still insists she is allergic. Maybe to Honey Bees? Not sure. It is a subject that I only know a bit about. Sometimes people can bee like you not allergic and then allergic. I didn't know a specific spot of a sting could make the reaction be more like an allergic one like Daniel said. We keep epipens here at the house just incase but so far so good. I hope you continue to just get the little red bumps but if it were me I would try to take some precautions like having an epipen incase you have another bad reaction. I wish you the best.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Eugene, OR USA
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Daniel,

    Yes, I agree that different sting locations can lead to widely different results. Can't really afford to keep bees if I have to buy and keep buying epipen though, so I'd have to sell out. Besides, epipen has hazards of its own from what I've read - may induce a heart attack in individuals with heart disease, which I think I may also have a bit of.

    There's a lot of confusion in the literature about this whole topic, I think. The chapter in my copy of "The Hive and the Honey Bee" that deals with allergic reactions is the most complete treatment I've found, and it takes a kind of non-alarmist approach, pointing out that statistically, you are more likely to die driving in your car on the way to the ER than you are from an insect sting. Very, very few people die each year from this. In any case, ER is also too expensive for me and doctors kill a lot of people too.

    I was most surprised about the visual disturbances, almost hallucinogenic in quality. I'd never heard of that so it was unexpected. Not sure how common it is - it's not listed in my book nor anywhere else I've seen - but it's interesting that it afflicted you too.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    Lander, WY
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    261

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    The blanket use/recommendation of the epi-pen is worrisome to me, And I see it often on this forum. It can be worse for the patient than the sting or reaction in many cases. Know what you are doing before using an epipen, ownership counts for little, education counts for a lot, get training, like Honeyshack consult a Doctor, but also know the misuse of an epipen can lead to cardiac arrest.
    I look forward to hearing from our More knowledgeable/up to date members, my training is in Wilderness first Responder circa 2009

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
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    noth Islan, New Zealand
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    17

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Adam I am wondering about your age, (or maybe your age shouldnt come into it). Am wondering if the allergic reaction also caused a cardiac reaction, have you been checked out by a doctor as previously advised. I had a toddler in my care years ago who had a single bee sting on his finger, his reaction took over about half an hour but I drove to the emergency centre with him and other little ones, the most dangerous thing I have ever done, I will always order an ambulance in future, as what I saw was a slow reaction turned very serious, I ran into the centre with a limp unresponsive toddler, thank fully he was up and mobil in an hour

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Eugene, OR USA
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    11

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Fieldbee,

    I'm starting to get up there in years a bit and just suspect there may be some heart disease. Called a cardiologist recently and the nurse told me it could easily cost several thousand dollars just doing initial tests. No thanks. I'm neither an illegal alien nor a gov't worker, so health care isn't free for me and at that price I'm not that curious.

    Overall, the weakness induced in this reaction caused a kind of relaxation, which when coupled with the visual "whiteout" left me thinking that if a guy had to go, this wouldn't be a bad way at all. Not that I'm recommending it though.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    Faulkner Manitoba, Canada
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Quote Originally Posted by willyC View Post
    The blanket use/recommendation of the epi-pen is worrisome to me, And I see it often on this forum. It can be worse for the patient than the sting or reaction in many cases. Know what you are doing before using an epipen, ownership counts for little, education counts for a lot, get training, like Honeyshack consult a Doctor, but also know the misuse of an epipen can lead to cardiac arrest.
    I look forward to hearing from our More knowledgeable/up to date members, my training is in Wilderness first Responder circa 2009
    I wish is could shorten the quote...sorry mods...

    As for training on an epi pen. Along with our first aid with CPR for our school bus driver inservice, we recieved an extra training from a nurse on epi pen use due to some kids on the school bus' asthma plan.
    All of the symptoms described by Adam were reason to use the pen. If one reads the epi pen info which comes with the pen, his symptoms mirror what is on the pen.

    Now for the kicker. I just went through a reaction much like Adam's this past June. I am now unable to work bees until my test on Wednesday August 1. I have been in an out of hospital the past month which included a two day stay due to my allergies and asthma (allergic to everything under the sun). I now enjoy (sarcastic tone) the need for an epi pen to be carried with me daily..well actually if I leave my yard...TWO pens because my allergy induced asthma has gotten that bad. How did the GP word it..."Do not worry about the pen. It is life saving for you."
    The moment that the lips start the swell, the moment the throat starts to feel like there is a lump, the intense iching, its either benadryl or epi. However, add in the cramps, the impending sense of doom, the nausia, the weakness to the point of fainting....benadryl is not enough because its the blood pressure dropping dangerously low and only the epi can bring it back up long enough to get medical help.
    One might not be able to justify the epi pen, but these days they last well over a year. $100 bucks to save a life? the weight of the cost is only measured by the owner and possibly by his loved ones he would leave behind if he died.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
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    Santa Monica, CA, USA
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Adam
    I am glad you are OK. Many thanks for detailed description of symptoms - it really could save somebody's life! Being immunologist (sort of, not doctor) I have no explanation why it was happened this way. Be careful! Sergey

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    lee county, fl, usa
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    822

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I'm with Daniel and honeyshack on this one. I do understand that medical treatment is a personal choice. I wouldn't recommend not having an epi pen in light of your reactions to someone who might not be as ready to take the chance that everything will be ok, or if not, well not a bad way to go. It all might end up costing much more than an epi pen. This time everything turned out alright and I hope that continues for you. Still, maybe sell some honey and get a pen?
    I have visited your beautiful city and I hope someday to go again. Oregon is something!
    "Rule Three of beekeeping...Never cease to feel wonder" Laurie R. King--
    March 2010; +/- 30 hives, TF

  12. #12
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    May 2012
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    Rockford, MI
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    2,519

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Adam,
    You are not out of the woods yet by any stretch of the imagination.
    I, like you, were stung many times at once in one location to the back of my hand. Everything was fine except for the obvious pain from the stings and the redness that subsided rather quickly.
    Fast forward a few days (maybe four to five days). I noticed one morning I woke to find my hand swollen, red and warm to the touch. You guessed it.... infection had set in from the multiple bee stings.
    One trip to the Doc for steroids and some form of penicillin and I was right as rain after a few days.
    Keep an eye for such symptoms my friend.

  13. #13
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    Mar 2012
    Location
    Guilford, CT
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    69

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Posting as a nurse, not an experienced bee keeper. Many times in the course of receiving multiple stings, you are receiving each bee's maximum amount of venom. These are not "warnings" you are being "attacked". Hence the severe reaction. This could be your LIFE, please, at least have a bottle of liquid benadryl with your hive tool at all times and drink at least half. Yes an EPI-Pen requires medical care both before and after use. Personally I think that would be better than having someone finding you dead, ******, and unrecognizable.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Olmsted County, MN USA
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I've never had a reaction like this to bee stings. But I've now seen multiple threads where someone routinely exposed to bee stings with no hx of hypersensitivity has a life-threatening response. I also occasionally have a friend/relative who wants a look into the hive. They may deny allergies to honeybee stings, but you never know how well informed that response is.

    I asked my doc for an epi pen prescription so I can keep a couple of them in my bee box. He heartily agreed.

    Cheap insurance, imo.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    brownwood, TX, USA
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    812

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Two thoughts:

    The next time this happens, or any other emergency, go to your nearest hospital's emergency room. I think they have to treat you. I know in Texas that is the case. Oregon may be different, but I doubt it.

    Second thought, If you are 62 years old you can take early retirement and get on medicare. They will fix your heart for very little money.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Windham,CT USA
    Posts
    17

    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    Several years ago I experienced the same reactions to stings that you have. But mine came on a more slowly over a period of weeks for continuing to get stung once or twice. I suspect that yours was so quick and aggressive because of the number of stings.

    When I had my experiences, I had just been put on blood pressure medication. I immediately made an appointment with my gp, who was on vacation and ended up seeing a covering physician.

    I explained my reactions and told him I had never experienced such reactions before and asked if it could be the new medication... He assured me it wasn’t.

    The next time I was stung, was the worst and was nearly equal to what you have just experienced. I searched out an allergist. When I got to see him the first question he asked was about medication.. As detailed it and he consulted a pharmacist ( since it was a new medication) he said oh no you need to get off of that.. and called my gp and had the medication changed.

    But my body had learned to deal with bee venom by going into shock. After some some testing, I was placed on a regime of immunotherapy. It took 40 weekly shots to build up to where the Doc says I can sustain 6 stings with a probability of only 1% of going into shock. When I get stung, the site is no more than mosquito bite. I keep a epi pen at home and in my truck…although you have keep them cool or they lose their effectiveness.

    I also wear a Ultra Breeze jacket. I have used it for two or three years now. I first bought their suit…. But it was when it first came out and I think they were still tweaking it. I have been stung several times when bees entered the suit via the connection between the suit and veil. They have refined that connection point on the newer jacket.

    When I first started on the weekly regime of shots and took a sting, 20 minutes late I was in trouble. I had a blood pressure cuff at home because of my high blood pressure. I took a reading it was 60 over 40. I was heading for serious trouble and I knew it. I had an epi pen and gave myself a shot. In less than a minute and a half .. it was like I never had been stung. So by this very quick reversal you can see how potent this medication is and how dangerous it would be to take this medication prematurely. I am sure it could be fatal.

    I still go to the allergist for monthly maintenance shots. Bees are fun by not worth your life. See the doc or quit the bees.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Brookshire, Texas
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I would be a bit concerned that you received that many stings through your protective suit. It may be time to re-vamp what you wear around the bees. I realize that no suit/veil is always 100% protective but something is up here. Even finely woven cotton that initially stops many stings can get loose and thin enough through many washings to become less useful. Maybe time to wear something updated or better.
    PS- One of our local beeks sprays some "Off" insect repelant lightly around/on his suit and he appears to have less interest from the bees.

  18. #18
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    May 2012
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    Deming, NM
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I am a flight paramedic with 20 years of experience in 911 and remote site emergency and clinical medicine.

    Adam: Go see your doctor. Yes, epi-pens have the potential to worsen a cardiac condition. In very very rare cases. It's a numbers issue- if you are about to go into anaphylactic shock from the allergy, theres a 90% chance you are going to die if untreated. The chances of a heart attack from epinephrine are probably something on the order of 1 in 10,000. Since you say you are getting up in years, it's a good idea to go see the doc, get your cholesterol levels checked, some basic blood work, and an EKG. Tell him about the bees and the reaction. If he thinks you are at high risk for coronary artery disease (due to your lab results, family history, etc) he may prescribe a different medication (injectable benadryl, for example. It's a little harder to use, but less risk). Probably he will just give you the epipen.

  19. #19
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    Thumbs Up Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    According to my wife, the line between 'macho' and 'stupid' is pretty small.

    All cost and medical reservations aside, don't put yourself in a corner with this decision. Seek specialized medical help and follow their advice....To the letter....Another near death experience may not turn out as well as the one you describe in the OP.

    I would hate to see a headline in a tabloid about a beekeeper committing 'suicide by bee sting', because that is what it sounds like to me

    Best Regards Adam
    LeeB
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  20. #20
    Join Date
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    Snowmass, Colorado, USA
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    Default Re: My Systemic Allergic Reaction Experience

    I am really surprised at some of the responses. As a beekeeper and a EMT with speciality in Wilderness Treatment (treating patients far from medical facilities) it appears that Adam suffered from a high dose of Histamine release which is consistant with numerous stings, especially if he hadn't been stung much before. (histamine release is usually more on a first sting of the season and less as the season goes on...usually) Most of the symptoms, including the Urge to defecate and Muscle cramps and intestinal cramps are the result of smooth muscle contractions. I would stay away from epi pens unless you are experiancing anaphylatic shock symptoms...then be advised if you are not close to med facilities it may require a subsequent dose/doeses once you hit yourself with the pen. (by the way a pen has about three doses but you have to administer the second and third one manually. requires taking the pen apart, etc...but in a wilderness situation it can save your life.)

    Any hoot...don't panic Adam...just your body reacting. I would not get stung for a bit if you can help it. Next season at the start of the season allow a sting to the hand area every time you are in the bee yard to start out and this should keep the reaction from multiple stings, should they happen later, to a minimum.

    Good luck.
    Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid. John Wayne

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