I was just speaking with my girlfriend last night about how unaware
people--even medical professionals--seem to be about the severity of
allergies to Hymenoptera.
Let me just state that I am *not* one of these people who are always
worrying about allergies--I am very healthy and have a positive attitude
When I was in 8th grade, I was stung on the foot by a honey bee. It was
painful and I sat down--the next thing I knew I was on the ground. People
around told me that I had jerked forward out of the chair. Ironically, this
occurred in the backyard of an allergist, who felt that I had had an
hysterical response to the pain of the bee sting. Other people have told me
that this reaction is typical of an anaphylactic response.
So I went along for the next number of years believing that I'd had an
"hysterical" reaction. The next time I got stung, at a concert, I made a
concerted effort to remain calm--then I felt myself falling into
unconsciousness and had to make a concerted effort to remain breathing!
Fortunately, someone sitting nearby had a bee sting kit (consisting of an
epinephrine shot) and gave me an injection. They ended up carrying me out on
a stretcher and taking me to the hospital in an ambulance.
This was over 10 years ago and I haven't been stung since. Though I am very
concerned about the decline of honey bees due to varroa mite and chemical
use, I feel it makes things safer for me working outdoors.
My friend was stung by a hornet the other day. She got stung last summer,
and this time she swelled up badly around the sting site. To me this is an
indication of increasing sensitivity to the stings, as my bee allergy
accelerated with each bee sting in a similar way. However, the medical
professional she is seeing diminishes the severity of the situation, denies
the possibility of an allergy, and made a flip remark about how a sting on
her neck would "do her in." "Anaphylaxis" is defined in Webster's as
"hypersensitivity (as to foreign proteins or drugs) resulting from
sensitization following prior contact with the causative."
I am not surprised that your brother freaked out when he was stung if he had
previously had experiences similar to mine, such as a total shutdown of the
body's functions! Doctors warn that stings can result in death if not
treated immediately. And this does happen every year. I suggest that your
brother was stung that time by an insect to which he did not have an
allergy, though it felt like the same thing.
If anyone has further medical information on allergies to Hymenoptera and
increasing sensitivity to stings, I would like to know about it. How
accurate are the skin tests that allergists use to determine sensitivity?
This is an issue I think about from time to time working in the field.
>Regarding severe allergies to bee stings: My brother did that - I say did
>because I was with him once when he got stung and dropped a box of ripe
>tomatoes he was carrying at the moment, because he thought the sting would do
>him in. It was visably clear to me that HE was DOING it - opening up to it
>and freaking out - and I told him so. It took a little convincing, but he was
>able to take control and had a normal rather than abnoral reaction (which had
>been the norm for him up til then). What I can't tell you is whether the
>effect was permanent or not. I think I email this to him too, so he can
>answer that. It happened *many* years ago.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln alternative crops research technician
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society western organizer
High Plains Ag Lab
3257 Rd. 109
Sidney, NE 69162
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