Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Buzz Off

Provided there is no allergic reaction, the first aid for a bee sting is simple. Quickly remove the stinger by scraping with the back edge of a blade or card.  After that, treat the injury as you would a puncture wound.  That is, wash with soap and clean water.  Because of the injected venom an insect sting can quickly become complicated.  In severe cases it can cause a condition known as anaphylaxis.  This life-threatening condition is characterized by a whole-body allergic reaction including hives and difficulty breathing.

Luckily, I am not that susceptible to bee venom.  But my minor allergic reaction to getting stung last summer means I am at increased risk of anaphylaxis in the future.  I was at summer camp at Camp Fiesta Island, San Diego, CA, the week of 4 July with my Boy Scout troop.  For the rest of this article, I present my point of view of an injury and its treatment.

Here is a picture from immediately after the bee sting.  To give the viewer some perspective, that is my left forearm above a table.  The bee sting is the reddening spot on the right (underside) of the arm.  This bee had discovered a nice place to rest in a fold of my T-shirt when I brushed my arm against her.
Bee sting is on the side of the arm. Picture taken immediately after impact.

I knew this was a relatively minor injury for me and cleaned my arm after scraping out the stinger.  Then I watched for allergic reaction and was prepared to treat for shock.  As it happens, the bee sting did lead to an allergic reaction.  I treated the symptoms with calamine lotion to control the itching and antibiotic lotion to prevent infection. 
One day after I attacked a resting bee.

The venom spread slowly, as it does, through the muscle tissue in my arm.  It looked the worst several days after the attack.  
Bulls eye.  Three days later.

After about a week, I still had a bruise from the tissue damaged by the venom but had otherwise recovered.  It's important to note that I was not grievously injured here.  Bees leave only small puncture wounds but can cause serious allergic reactions.  This is clearly an allergic reaction but it is minor.  
Just a bruise.