Insects are a common problem during the warmer summer months. For some people they’re nothing more than a nuisance; for others they could be a serious problem. This is especially true for people who get bee stings and anaphylactic shock sets in. Even if you think you don’t know someone with this type of allergy to bee stings, it’s a good idea to know how to react. Your actions could save a life.

People don’t often think about how serious a bee sting can be, unless they have had a severe reaction to a sting themselves.

Know the symptoms of anaphylactic shock so you can help someone who is having a severe allergic reaction:

  • Severe and sudden headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen tongue
  • Nausea

If you find someone having these symptoms, get them to a hospital at once.

Experts believe the reason bee stings are more harmful and cause anaphylactic shock (more so than other stinging insects) is because their stinger is barbed. When a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket stings, the stinger remains with the insect and the poison is removed when it flies off. Bees, on the other hand, lose their stinger when they sting a person and fly off to die.

The stinger, which is connected to a poison sack, remains in the skin. As long as it is imbedded in the skin, it can still pump poison into the body. This can continue for several minutes. If the stinger isn’t removed it can quickly turn to anaphylactic shock.

Be careful how you remove the stinger. Don’t press on the venom sac or this will inject more poison into the person. Instead use a fingernail or credit card to scrape the stinger out. Wash the area with soap and water immediately and place ice on the area that was stung. If you notice any of the above symptoms, get the person medical help immediately.

People who know that they have that serious an allergic reaction to bee stings will generally carry an epinephrine (or Epi) pen with them. The pen provides a specific dose (0.3 milligram) of epinephrine. Even if this doesn’t seem like much, this little amount can literally save a person’s life if they’re going into anaphylactic shock from an allergic reaction.

If you have to use an EpiPen on someone, remove the gray safety cap. Place the black tip on the thigh at a right angle and press it into the outside of the thigh. Hold the injection there for several seconds and then massage the injection site for at least 10 seconds. NEVER give and EpiPen shot to any other area of the body.

Watching someone go into anaphylactic shock can be traumatic. However, when bee stings and anaphylactic shock are a possibility it is best to be prepared. Learn what you can about this condition so you can help someone experiencing it and possibly save their life.