Monday, April 29, 2019

Bee Sting Allergy and Reaction

Living in Central Florida and maintaining a flower garden, one is more apt to experience a bee sting or two, or maybe three. I have a pink powder puff, Calliandra surinamensis in my front yard garden that attracts quite a bit of bees and wasps and less frequently butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. On Friday, April 26, 2019, I experienced my third bee sting, in little over one month's time. Almost immediately, I knew I was going to have a large local reaction. I already knew that I was very allergic to wasp stings, but now I'd say I have a definite bee sting allergy too.

Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand
Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand - April 26, 2019
In this first photo, you can see the swelling on the top side of the pointer finger of my left hand. This was within an hour of the bee sting. This was my third bee sting, having been stung first on the ring finger of my right hand, and then a second bee sting on the right side of my face. The first bee sting had an allergic reaction with swelling that was pretty much contained to my finger. The second bee sting was like a fly-by where I moved quick enough to shake off the bee. That allergic reaction left a circular mark that blistered and scabbed and was slightly raised, but the swelling did not radiate.

Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand
Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand - April 26, 2019
After an hour or so, after the bee sting, you can see how the swelling has progressed into the top of my hand with a rather circular swollen area. I had immediately washed with soap and water and applied white distilled vinegar to the bee sting area to help with the burning and stinging. Afterwards, I began applying ice compresses regularly.

Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand
Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand - April 26, 2019
I took one Benadryl-equivalent allergy pill early on. By the end of the day, it was obvious that the allergic reaction would become a large local reaction as the swelling progressed into my left hand up to my wrist. I had taken a second Benadryl-equivalent allergy pill later that afternoon. By the next day, my other fingers were swollen.

Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand
Bee Sting on Pointer Finger of Left Hand - April 27, 2019
Two days later, on Sunday, after many ice compresses, it did not appear that the large local reaction was stopping. The top of my hand felt painful as I could feel more swelling. It seemed the swelling was progressing a bit past my wrist area. In the morning, I called my doctor on his cellphone and left a message that I had a large local reaction to my third bee sting. I mentioned probably needing a prednisone prescription and then a prescription for an epipen. I also mentioned I would be stopping by my Publix Pharmacy to get a second opinion from the pharmacist. I picked up a package of 24 Diphenhydramine antihistamine, allergy tablets and a tube of Hydrocortisone cream. When I got home, I took an allergy tablet and applied the cream to my left hand.

My doctor returned the call after 3pm that day and phoned in a prescription for Medrol dosepak, methylprednisolone. I picked up the Medrol dosepak after 4pm on Sunday and took tablets to get me caught up for the day.

Medrol Dosepak for Bee Sting Large Local Reaction
Medrol Dosepak for Bee Sting Large Local Reaction - April 28, 2019

Previous Systemic Reaction to Two Wasp Stings

In February 2017, I had been stung for the fourth consecutive time by Carolina Polistes wasps. This time, I received two wasp stings to the crook of the elbow area of my right arm. It was immediately apparent that this was going to be a systemic reaction, not a large local reaction! Within minutes, I started feeling something was going on, but couldn't believe it would be life-threatening. Soon, I could feel my mouth area affected with a strong tingling sensation with my tongue and then lips, like my lips were being inflated! I had washed the area with soap and water and applied ice compresses ... but I thought I'd better take some Benadryl. I took one and then later a second tablet.

Since my primary care physician at the time was not available, but had the office closed that day, I phoned the Publix Pharmacy and was told to go to the ER. I decided not to go anywhere since I wasn't feeling that hot, but stayed home and tried to relax. The next day I stopped by the Publix Pharmacy and then drove over to the hospital ER. I wasn't treated there, but came back home. On Monday, I was able to see my doctor who said I had a lot of cellulitis going on and wrote me a prescription for prednisone twice a day for three days. She didn't prescribe Medrol dosepak. We did discuss getting an epipen, but didn't proceed with a prescription because of the cost. This experience was shared previously in my blog post about Epinephrine, the epipen.

Third Day of Large Local Reaction to Bee Sting

I have just started the second day's dose of the Medrol dosepak. It seems that after taking the first day's dose of 6 methylprednisolone tablets, the swelling in my left hand stopped progressing up into my lower arm. By the time of the second day's first dose, the overall swelling in my left hand and fingers was subtly less and a bit more comfortable feeling. Bending the bee sting finger was not as painful.

On Monday, April 29, 2019 at 10:30am, I was examining the pink powder puffs to see what kind of bees and other insects were there. I saw a good-sized bumble bee and looked closely to be sure it wasn't a carpenter bee. I've seen carpenter bees that come from the yard next door, but was confident I had a bumble bee. Not all the puffs were occupied by bees, but there were 3 honeybees on one puff which makes me wonder if there could have been two such bees buried into the puff that got me!

Since my activities each day with my pink powder puff could be described as almost a bee-tender, it probably makes sense for me to secure a prescription for an epipen!!

Bee Sting vs Wasp Sting

I was curious to know what is the general consensus on a bee sting vs a wasp sting as both of those stings hurt like crazy when I got stung. It feels like a hot, burning, electric-like shock in the sting area as it is happening. I'd rank the Carolina Polistes wasp sting up there for pain level, above the bee sting. Researching what they have to say about bee stings, it said it's all or nothing ... which I tend to not agree with. I almost wonder if the bee doesn't always lose its stinger. If a bee stings you and deposits its stinger, it can be up to 50 micrograms of venom which is a lot. The wasp is said to keep its stinger and inject from maybe 2 to 15 micrograms. The bee and wasp have different types of venom, but the allergic effects are similar.

In addition to bees and wasps, I am also allergic to fire ants. I've had doctor treatment after each one of these stinging events. To rate the sting levels from lower to higher, it would be fire ants, bees, and then wasps. Yes, I'd agree with that although I've had large local reactions to all three and approached a systemic reaction with fire ants and wasps ... so far, not bees.

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