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What's up Doc? Bee Stings

Q My son has never been stung by a bee, but I know that first sting is inevitable. How will I know if he has an allergic reaction, and is there anything I should have on hand to treat him?

A Most children who are stung by bees have only minor local reactions, like pain and swelling. The first bee sting is extremely unlikely to cause an allergic reaction since the child’s body has not seen the venom before. The only instance in which this could happen is if your child was stung and you didn’t know it. For children who are allergic to bee stings, many will have more significant localized reactions with lots of swelling and redness. These can be treated with an antihistamine (like Benadryl), ice and hydrocortisone cream.

A more severe allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate medical attention and giving epinephrine as soon as possible. The child will have one or more of the following symptoms: facial swelling, a feeling that there is something in his or her throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing or vomiting. If a child is known to have anaphylaxis to bee stings or any other allergen, he or she should have ready access to an EpiPen, which can be immediately injected into his or her thigh. After injection, the child should be brought to the Emergency Department for observation and further treatment.

Scott Krugman, M.D.
Chairman, Department of Pediatrics, MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

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