Did you know almost 5% to 7% of people in the United States experience severe allergic reactions to insect stings during their lifetime?
The venom from bees, wasps, and yellow jackets causes the most severe reactions. An insect allergy test is a lifesaving measure for a small percentage of people to identify if they have severe and life-threatening allergic reactions to insects.
If you suspect you might have an allergy to bees or other insects, then you should get yourself tested. Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about bee allergies and insect allergies and what to expect when you get a bee allergy test
What Are Bee Sting Allergies?
Most people who are stung by bees get a minor reaction. This reaction includes mild redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the sting. Usually, this reaction goes away within an hour or two. But for some people, a bee sting can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction is when your immune system responds to a foreign substance by producing antibodies. When you have a bee sting allergy, your immune system is mistaking the venom as an invader.
When you're first stung, your body might produce a small number of antibodies. But when you're stung again, your body produces antibodies more rapidly, releasing chemicals that cause a bee sting allergic reaction.
There are certain families of insects that cause the most allergic reactions. These include:
- Yellowjackets, hornets, and wasps
- Bees including honey bees, sweat bees, and occasionally bumble bees
- Fire ants and harvester ants
Risk factors for Bee Sting Allergies
You're more likely to have an allergic reaction to a bee sting if you've had an allergic reaction in the past, even if it was a minor one. If you're an adult, you're more likely to have a severe allergic reaction than a child is. Other risk factors for bee stings include:
- If you live in an area where bees are active
- You have beehives or nests nearby
- You work outside
- You have outdoor sports and hobbies
Causes of Bee Sting Allergies
The cause of bee sting allergies is the bee sting itself. Bee sting venom has proteins that affect your immune system and skin cells, causing pain and swelling around the sting area. If you have a bee sting allergy, to begin with, bee venom can trigger a more serious reaction involving your immune system.
Signs and Symptoms of Bee Sting Allergies
Symptoms of bee stings can vary for each person, depending on how severe your allergies are. You can have mild, moderate, or severe allergies. Symptoms of a mild bee sting include:
- Sharp burning pain right after the sting
- The sting area becomes raised and red
- Slight swelling
When you have a moderate bee sting reaction, it means your body has a stronger response to the bee venom. This reaction is also called a large local reaction (LLR) and takes at least a week to heal completely. Symptoms of a moderate reaction include severe redness and swelling increase to a 10 cm diameter 24 to 48 hours after the sting.
Some people can have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting called anaphylaxis. This type of reaction is a life-threatening reaction that requires emergency treatment. Symptoms of anaphylaxis develop rapidly, and you shouldn't delay medical treatment. Symptoms include:
- Itching and hives
- Pale skin
- Swelling in the tongue or throat
- Trouble breathing
- Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
- A weak and rapid pulse
- Loss of consciousness
Bees generally aren't as aggressive as wasps, but there are chances you can get multiple stings at once if you disrupt a hive or nest. Being stung multiple times at once increases your risk for a severe reaction and can make you very sick.
If you have a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, you have between a 25% to 65% chance of developing anaphylaxis the next time you're stung. It's important that you talk to your doctor about seeing an allergy specialist.
How Bee Sting Allergies Are Diagnosed
If you've reacted to a bee sting in the past, then see your doctor about testing for bee allergies. Your doctor will ask you about your past medical history, past bee stings, and the symptoms you experienced.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor will likely start with ordering a skin test. For skin testing, a small amount of the suspected allergen is placed into the skin of your arm. If you're allergic to bees, you'll get a raised bump on your skin at the site of the test.
Your doctor will also order allergy blood tests to measure your immune system response to bee venom. Your immune response is determined by measuring the number of antibodies in your bloodstream that cause allergies.
Lab Tests to Diagnose Bee Sting Allergies
The first bee sting test your doctor will order is a honey bee (i1) IgE test. The honey bee test measures the levels of the antibody IgE in your blood. High levels of this antibody indicate an allergy to bees.
If you've had multiple reactions to different bees, wasps, or ants, you'll need an allergy insect venom panel. This panel tests your IgE antibodies to:
- Honey bees
- Yellow jackets
- Paper wasps
- Fire ants
- White-faced hornets.
Another great panel to test for allergies to all stinging insects is allergy panel 13, the stinging insect group. This panel tests for allergies to:
- Honey bees
- Yellow jackets
- Yellow hornets
- White-faced hornets
- Paper wasps.
You may also want to be tested for a mosquito allergy and allergies to the American cockroach. Often people with allergies to stinging insects have other insect allergies as well.
FAQS About Bee Sting Allergies
What should I do if I am stung by a bee? The first thing to do is remain calm and try to remove the stinger to stop the release of venom. You can use tweezers, the side of a credit card, or even your fingernail to remove the barb. Make sure to use ice to reduce pain and swelling as soon as possible.
If I've been stung by a bee in the past without a serious reaction, what are the chances I will develop a serious reaction? Luckily, your chances of developing a serious reaction are low, at no more than 5% to 10%.
What is the best treatment for a bee sting? Many people take an antihistamine or put a topical steroid cream on the sting site.
If one of my parents has severe bee allergies, does that mean I will too? Fortunately, the answer is no. A family history of bee sting allergies does not increase your risk.
Order a Bee Allergy Test With Ulta Lab Tests
Ulta Lab Tests offers a highly accurate bee allergy test, allowing you to make the best decisions about your health. Here are some awesome things you'll love about Ulta Lab Tests:
- Secure and confidential results
- No need for a physician's referral
- Always affordable pricing
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Order your bee allergy and insect allergy lab tests today, and your results will be provided to you securely online in 24 to 48 hours in most cases.
Take charge of your health and visit Ulta Lab Tests today!