How to Know If Your Child is Allergic to Bees

Summer means no school, warmer weather, and, unfortunately, the appearance of stinging insects like wasps, honey bees, and fire ants. For most people these bugs are just irritating. But for about 5 percent of kids, a bee sting can mean a severe or even deadly reaction – scary! Here’s how to know if your child is allergic to bees.

What Happens When You are Stung by a Bee

Honey bees, bumble bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, paper jackets, and fire ants can all cause allergic reactions. When these insects sting, they inject venom into the skin. Most people experience only mild swelling, redness, and burning at the site of the sting. For kids and adults with insect allergies, a sting can trigger a severe reaction known as anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing, skin afflictions such as hives or rash, swollen tongue or throat, nausea, dizziness or fainting, and a weak but rapid pulse. Anaphylaxis can be life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. 

But what if your little has never been stung by a bee or wasp? How do you know if your kiddo is allergic?

How to Know if Your Child is Allergic to Bees

Right now, the only way to know if someone is allergic to stinging insects is to watch for a reaction. It’s extremely uncommon to have an allergic reaction the first time a bee stings you. If your child is allergic to stinging insects, you almost certainly won’t know it until a second or third sting from the same type of insect.

That’s because on first sting, the allergic person develops antibodies known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies then attach themselves to immune cells tasked with chemical defense against what they deem as threats, according to Science Alert. The next time an allergic person is stung, the antibodies could drive the immune system to overreact to the venom and release a flood of chemicals like histamine. These chemicals cause the person’s allergic reaction.

Who is at Risk of Insect Stings

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, an estimated .4-.8 percent of children and three percent of adults have a life threatening allergy to insect stings. Another few percent have severe reactions which may or may not worsen with time. In any given year, approximately 100 people will die from an untreated allergic reaction to a sting.

It’s impossible to know what kind of reaction a person with a known insect allergy will have if stung. S/he may experience anaphylaxis, or the reaction could be less severe. People who know they are allergic to insect stings should carry an emergency epinephrine auto injector such as an EpiPen, the Mayo Clinic advises. This is a rescue medicine that can help reduce the reaction and buy some time until the affected person arrives at the ER. 

If Your Child is Allergic to Bees

If your little has an allergy to bees, see an allergist. The doctor can give you a prescription for emergency epinephrine. S/he might also recommend allergy shots known as immunotherapy which can help lessen reactions.

Experts advise kiddos with severe allergies wear medical ID necklaces bracelets to alert others. Minimize the risk of a sting by teaching kids to stay away from the insects. Other sting-prevention tips include always wearing shoes outdoors, avoiding bright colored clothing, and taking care when eating or drinking outside.

Has your child ever had a reaction to an insect? What precautions do you take to avoid being stung again?

I’m a married mom of two living in Seattle, WA. I have a eight-year-old little boy, a second grader! He’s a fairly reserved kid and all about Legos and Minecraft. I also have a little girl who turned four at the end of February. She’s a tiny thing but a big ham; we call her our clown. They’re a lot of work but also a ton of fun. I love to eat, cook, and run (in that order). But at the end of the day, give me a spot on the couch and a little bit of TV or a good book, I’m done!