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Dangers of bee stings


#1

Hi to ALL,

I want to give everyone a timely warning about bee stings as it is something that should never be taken lightly or even worse, ignored.

I had been stung by bees in the past a few times and always recovered fairly quickly after the initial sting and the following couple of days of mild pain and swelling of the area.
Having decided on beekeeping as a hobby and recently my son caught a swarm for me and I was stung by a bee on my hand 6 days ago - same symptoms as my early experiences. Two days later I was stung again on my foot - same experiences again. Two days later, stung for the third time on the back of my neck but this time it was initially a little different. Half an hour later I felt extremely itchy all over so I decided to have a hot bath to try and relieve the itchiness. When I got out of the bath I noticed an angry looking rash all over my upper body. I showed it to my wife who said you better go to the doctor and let him have a look at it - reluctantly I agreed as it’s only a few minutes to the doctors. This was around 4 pm.

After seeing the doctor he asked how I was feeling and I told him I wasn’t 100% so he said you’d better sit here for a bit and then see how things are. He was monitoring my blood pressure which was beginning to get a bit low. Half an hour later I began to feel quite faint and nauseous and dizzy and my tongue was beginning to swell with a little difficulty breathing - the doctor came back to me and could see I was in difficulty so they gave me an injection of adrenalin, anti histamine and cortisone and put me on a saline drip. The rash disappeared within a minute of the adrenalin injection! My blood pressure had fallen to 80 over 40, which isn’t good for sustaining life and was the reason for the adrenalin injection. An ambulance was called to take me to the hospital. I can tell you I wasn’t in a very good state in the hospital, adrenalin was causing my whole body to convulse to the point where I simply couldn’t control it. To give you an idea - if you’ve ever had restless leg syndrome, which causes your leg to twitch when you lie down in bed - well magnify that about 15 or 20 times and I wasn’t going to get any relief from that until the adrenalin wears off.
At about 9.30pm my blood pressure and heart beats had returned to normal and they let me go home.
I was so lucky, if my wife wasn’t home I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor and with falling blood pressure I wouldn’t have even been able to crawl to the phone for an ambulance - I would have died.
I have since found out that those 3 stings, the venom is exponential, that is it continues to increase one on top of the other and if I get stung again it could very well be fatal.

So lessons learnt - even if you don’t want to it’s best to suit up, you never know and you could be a person disposed to this kind of anaphylactic shock and believe me it’s not something you want to experience. Get some anti histamine tablets and take one immediately you get stung, it slows the onset of anaphylaxis. If you feel faint and dizzy accompanied by nausea, get immediate help - it could save your life. Maybe get yourself an epi pen.

Best regards to all,
John.


#2

Glad you are ok. That sounds like an awful experience. Do you need an epi pen now?


#3

Anaphylactic shock is unbelievably dangerous but the best place to get it is in the emergency ward of a nice big hospital.

About 15 years ago I had an encounter with one of the critters sharing my little corner of paradise. I trod on a tiger snake while wading the river and it bit me… twice. Emergency call, ambulance, local hospital, failed blood coagulation test, back in the waiting ambulance, bells and whistles for the 70 odd kilometres to Lismore base hospital. Even though I had waded the river after the bites, venom was still oozing from the punctures. Venom testing determined what antivenin to use and while this testing was being done I was decorated with an “art line”. No it wasn’t the start of a snake tattoo but a catheter into my radial artery. The first vial of antivenin started to be administered and things got very interesting very quickly.

It was like being itchy on the inside. I felt the flush as my skin went red all over and the comforting sound of the machine that goes “bing” changed to a continuous whine. My blood pressure had collapsed to nothing very much at all. I was in anaphylactic shock. One of the scrum of medicos surrounding me shoved a syringe full of adrenaline into my arse and in no time at all the bing resumed. I drifted off to sleep while 7 vials of antivenin were loaded into my body.

I was discharged from hospital the next afternoon.

I’ve had loads of bee stings over the years, about 20 at once on one occasion. Bee stings don’t seem to be a problem for me. I’m allergic to horse serum. All the same if I do get stung I monitor myself carefully for a while.

This afternoon I needed to add a super to one of my hives.I had the super already loaded with frames and even had a couple of beetle traps in place. The bees I was working are really gentle and I figured I could work them without smoke and unsuited. I knew there was a spacer to be lifted off and I knew there was an empty sugar feeder to come off as well. What I didn’t know about was the burr comb rising up from a couple of the frames.

The bees were really quiet and I moved slowly and gently. After each operation I would walk away to give the girls a chance to settle down. A few bees would follow me but they generally turned back at about 10 metres. Unluckily for us both, one bee tangled herself in my hair. Instead of dispatching her with a whack, I tried to comb her out with my fingers… Didn’t work and she stung me on the scalp. I felt a bit dizzy but nothing like anaphylactic shock. By the time I lifted on the super and replaced the lid the dizziness had gone.

I’m lucky I guess. Both my brothers are bald.


#4

Yes we all take our stings for granted yet anaphylaxis is potentially round the corner for all of us.
Get well soon and I hope you can continue to bee keep


#5

Hi to Dee, Sciencemaster and Dunc and to all,

Thanks for the replies guys and appreciated the well wishes from all but my beekeeping days are over - gave a thriving hive about to explode in population to my son who has 3 hives of his own so he was glad to get them. I was really sorry to see them go this morning but pressure from my good wife and the doctors who kept re-inforcing the point that the next sting may well be fatal and only a fool would ignore such advice. And I was really starting to get into this very rewarding hobby too!
To Dunc - I don’t think I will be needing an epi pen, if I were to keep them I certainly would have done that but an anti histamine tablet in my pocket will suffice for the future at this stage.
I just wanted to make people aware of the possible serious effects of bee stings, particularly if you are a person disposed to this kind of shock and you just never know. One of the nurses told my wife that the lowest BP reading was 77 over 40, which is almost flatlining and is very critical.

Best regards all,
John


#6

Thanks for posting John and best wishes for the future.


#7

Well, that wouldn’t be my opinion, but it depends on your normal baseline blood pressure. Sixty over 30 would be worrying in a person who normally runs 120/80, but 77 on 40 is not “flatlining”. Can’t ignore it, and no question, you had a medical problem, but it is important to keep some perspective.

Dawn (MD, BM BCh, MRCP etc… :blush:)


#8

When my bing machine was whining I didn’t think to ask what the numbers were.


#9

@Beefriendly

Where in the world are you?

In parts of Australia you can raise colonies of stingless native bees. Not as much honey but still fun I believe.


#10

90/60 is my normal BP, thank goodness I’m not allergic to bee stings… get stung all the time, remove the stinger and you’d never know that it happened. I never take a sting lightly, I completely forget it even occurred.


#11

Hi Dunc,

I’m from Aus, Nelson Bay NSW – don’t know much about the stingless bees or what equipment is required but would consider it.

Regards,
John.


#12

You might be on the edge of the range, I’m not sure.

@JeffH has some but he’s further north than you. Any thoughts Jeff on the possibility of keeping natives just north of Newcastle?


#13

My cousin in Merimbula has kept them. Not sure how long they survived. When I saw him last he some empty nest spirals but no operating colonies. They certainly grow well here. The local tyre service has a colony thriving in a camphor laurel tree quite close to the main street in Mullumbimby.


#14

Hi Duncan and Sciencemaster,

Thank you both for your thoughts on native bees and they certainly are in my area in good numbers, I’ve seen them many times at my own house but my good wife would probably rather me seek another hobby rather than bees after the scare we’ve had. Anaphylaxis isn’t something I want to experience any time soon. As mentioned previous, my son came this morning and collected my bees that were really thriving so I’ll still be able to visit them – they’re not completely gone.
Best regards to all,
John.


#15

Hi Duncan, there’s lots of native bees kept south of Newcastle, at Ku-ring-gai. You can find a Youtube channel, “Envirotube”. I think the blokes name is Peter Clark. @Beefriendly John might find those videos helpful, cheers


#16

Being a new beekeeper I pushed the envelope early on because I knew I needed to gets stung and get familiar with what it feels like and how to treat it my first 7 or 8 stings we’re very minor. Slight swelling itchiness. I treated them with nothing but a little local antibiotic. When I got one on my face I realized I needed to probably take Benadryl because my face swelled very disproportionately. Sometime later I got one more on my face more toward much in this one actually stung through my Veil. So now unless they are very cold and I’m not doing anything invasive I suit up and I smoke… I do not need to test the theory any further and when I go for my annual physical I intend to ask the doctor for prescription for EpiPen because I have read that some seem about to develop almost an immunity to them others over time can develop an allergic reaction prefer not to take the chance. Plus if I were to have a visitor at my who got stung and had a reaction I would want to be prepared…


#17

Well I’ve discovered after 4 stings that I have a nasty reaction to antihistamines. Can’t use them at all. So it’s calamine lotion & cortisone for now. Don’t like the using cortisone but I do have a severe reaction to all insect bites/stings & I’m not giving up the bees! Besides the few stings I have received, I could have avoided (with hindsight) bar one, out of nowhere (well one of the hives) & caught in hair above my ear. Actually I find the Velcro tab on the hood that attaches to front top of suit more lethal. It always gets stuck in my hair, if not careful will have a bald patch…


#18

Hi sweetnature,
Your early encounters were the same as mine and of course I too had been stung quite a few times before this incident - I can only think I am now disposed toward this problem which may be worsening over time, I don’t know but I won’t play roulette with my life.
In hindsight, I had grown complacent after watching countless videos of beekeepers not suiting up, I began to think that suiting up wasn’t all that necessary and I got careless. I fell victim to that condition that every person suffers - it won’t happen to me. And I can only re-inforce what I said in my first posting - SUIT UP EVERY TIME.
It used to be that you could ask the doctor for a prescription for an EpiPen but I think that has now changed from what my doctor said. You now have to go to an immunologist (don’t go to a private source, go to a hospital, it’s cheaper) who will refer you and give you a script. If you don’t do that it costs well over $100 without that endorsement. They are only good for a year and then have to be replaced.
I can understand what you said about a visitor being stung and it’s probably advisable to ask them to keep a safe distance. My son who is a paramedic said the same thing as the doctor - if I get stung again take an anti-histamine tablet to slow down the onset of anaphylaxis and get help immediately before passing out. And that’s the most important thing, if there’s no-one there to help you, ring 000 for an ambulance as there isn’t much time, once you’ve passed out from falling BP, without intervention, it’s goodbye.
Probably 8 or 9 people get only mild to intense reactions but the other 1 or 2 it may be fatal.
Best regards,
John.


#19

Hi Kirsten,
Sorry to hear that you have a reaction to anti-histamines, it’s no fun having a severe reaction to insect bites - I would only suggest to see your doctor, explain the situation and see if there is something else not so reactory.
Please keep wearing your suit no matter what!
Best regards,
John.


#20

I am sorry to hear that a dedicated beekeeper left his valling. It should maybe entourage me to wear a beesuit. But both my suits are in the cupboard, never used. Got string a few times. I hope that does not make me macho, but i appreciate that I need to be very gentle and carefull, a bee wil punish me immediately when I do something wrong so I better do everything possible to prevent stings and thereby keep my bees happy. Maybe a silly way of thinking, but it keeps me on my toes and I like the direct contact with my girls. I have seen several beekeepers in suits treating the girls as if they are pieces of a machine. Not my way of thinking. With apologies to the beekeepers in suits who are gentle, I appreciate your way of working, but i just like it my way (and maybe have to pay a price sometime).