Symptoms of a severe bee sting allergy include a widespread rash, dizziness, swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing. Severe bee sting allergies can lead to unconsciousness and cardiac arrest within 10 minutes.
Most reactions to stinging insects are mild and amount to no more than pain, redness and swelling at the sting site. In some individuals, the swelling affects a larger area, such as a sting on the hand causing the lower arm to swell. Those larger, local reactions are also only uncomfortable and rarely dangerous.
In approximately 3 percent of adults, though, insect stings result in the much more serious reaction of anaphylaxis. Nearly 40 people die in the United States each year due to severe allergic reactions to stinging insects. The onset of anaphylactic shock might begin as much as an hour or more after a sting, but most severe allergies are evident within minutes. A hive-like rash is noticeable beyond the sting site, and swelling affects the face and throat. Wheezing, dizziness, rapid pulse and shortness of breath follow, and shock, unconsciousness and cardiac arrest may occur within minutes.
Prompt first aid and emergency treatment is essential. If possible, scrape away the stinger to prevent further exposure to the venom. Many individuals aware of a severe sting allergy carry epinephrine injectors and might be able to help a responder administer the medication. A call to emergency services is necessary prior to any lay responder treatment.