By Paul M. Dake, M.D.
Q: I am very allergic to bee sting and have had to go the ER twice because of them; my 8-year-old daughter is going to a church camp for a week; she has never been stung by a bee in the past, but I’m concerned that she might have the same reaction I did if she is stung. How can we find out if this is something to be worried about?
A: If your daughter has had no allergy problems thus far, including seasonal allergies (itchy eyes, nasal congestion, and clear runny nose at certain seasons of the year), then it is highly unlikely that she would be allergic to a bee sting.
Even when children do have such allergies, they almost always have more localized reactions, such as some redness, itching, and swelling at the site of the sting, and much less likely to have a more generalized reaction, such as facial and throat swelling, shortness of breath, an itchy rash everywhere, shortness of breath, and very low blood pressure, compared to adults.
The best way to be reassured about this is to have your daughter allergy tested. If the tests show a strong tendency toward bee sting allergy, then immunotherapy (injections of tiny amounts of the venom every 4-8 weeks) can be literally life-saving if you are far from medical help when a sting occurs. The injections are generally recommended for a period of 5 years, but in extremely sensitive individuals, may need to be continued for life.
The acute treatment for a major allergic reaction is an injection of epinephrine (EpiPen), but the thing to always remember is that there is a strong chance of a secondary, often more severe, allergic reaction about an hour after the first, which requires another injection of epinephrine. So, if you require an EpiPen, make sure you always have 2 on hand.
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