Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests For Bee Allergies

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Bee Allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to the proteins present in bee venom. Bee stings occur commonly and lead to mild pain and discomfort. In most cases, these stings can be treated through simple measures at home. However bee allergy results in a more serious reaction which requires prompt medical attention.

Tests Recommended

Your doctor may recommend certain tests to determine if you are allergic to bee venom. Bee Allergy tests include;

  • Skin test - A small drop containing purified bee venom is injected into the skin. Individuals with bee allergy will experience a red bump in the area. Skin testing is considered to be safe and is not known to cause any serious reaction.
  • Blood test - This is also known as a RAST or radioallergosorbent test. It analyzes the response of the immune system to bee venom by detecting the levels of antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are responsible for symptoms of an allergic reaction.

A blood test is recommended when a skin test yields negative results, but the doctor is still suspicious of an allergy. Testing for allergies to other insects such as wasps, hornets and yellow jackets may also be recommended.


Bee Allergy causes mainly includes a series of reactions that occur in the body when there is exposure to bee venom. There are certain proteins contained in bee venom that elicit a reaction from the immune system. The chemicals and hormones such as histamine which are released in the process trigger the symptoms of pain, swelling and redness in the affected area.


Bee stings usually lead to symptoms which may range from mild to severe. Some of the minor reactions to bee stings may result in symptoms such as burning in the area of the sting, redness and swelling. There may also be a tiny white spot when the stinger enters the skin surface. These symptoms usually subside in a few hours and do not pose much of a problem. Some people may experience a stronger reaction to bee stings and symptoms such as severe swelling and redness may occur. These symptoms may persist for a few days causing a lot of inconvenience to the person.

A severe reaction to bee stings is known as anaphylaxis. This is a life threatening condition and needs emergency treatment.

Bee Allergy symptoms in case of anaphylaxis include;

  • Itching, redness, hives or pale skin in the sting area as well as other areas of the body
  • Constriction of the airways resulting in breathing trouble
  • Irregular pulse rate
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of consciousness

In most cases, bees and other insects only sting a few times to defend themselves. However in some cases, such as when a hive is disturbed, they may sting several times. Certain types of bees like Africanized bees are also likely to sting multiple times. This can cause the bee venom to collect in the body and trigger a toxic reaction. The symptoms of such a reaction include;

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Faintness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Convulsions

It is important to seek medical attention immediately if multiple stings occur, especially in children, older individuals and those with breathing difficulties or heart problems.


Bee stings can usually be treated easily at home. But in case of an allergic reaction or multiple stings, medical treatment must be administered as quickly as possible. In case of a minor reaction you can take the following measures;

  • Remove the stinger as quickly as possible as the venom can enter the body rapidly. You can scrape it out using your fingernail or a pair of tweezers. But avoid pinching the stinger as this may rupture the venom sac and release more venom into the body.
  • Cleanse the affected area with water and soap.
  • Place a cold compress over the sting area to reduce pain and swelling. You can use an ice compress every hour for twenty minutes each time.

In case of larger reactions, you can follow these same measures and then treat the sting area with hydrocortisone cream. This will bring down the itching and redness. You can also take an antihistamine to quell the symptoms. Avoid scratching the affected area as this can lead to infection. Bee Allergy treatment in case of severe reactions involves the use of epinephrine. Those who are allergic to insect venom are also encouraged to carry a small dose of epinephrine which they can inject into themselves.

In order to prevent allergic reactions in the future, try to avoid being around stinging insects. Also protect your body by wearing appropriate clothing. You can even use insect repellants. Immunotherapy or allergy shots can also be done to cure venom allergy. It involves the administration of purified venom from the specific insect.