I’m allergic to bees.
Rather, I WAS allergic to yellowjackets, but am no more.
When I was in my 20’s I was stung several times after mowing over a yellow jacket nest that was hidden under the roots of a tree. (Did you know yellowjackets will build nests in the ground? Neither did I until this incident.)
Anyways, I immediately broke out into large hives all over my arms and chest. I’d been stung by the occasional bee as a child, but this was the first reaction I’d ever had beyond the sting and itch that everyone experiences. I followed up with my family Doctor and had a series of allergy tests done to find out if there was in fact, a sensitivity…
and there WAS.
Bee allergies. Yellowjackets to be exact.
The worst part of anaphylactic allergies, like nuts and bee stings, is that they can escalate over time. What was hives on me that fateful day, could escalate to breathing difficulties, swollen tongue and even death – so it became necessary to wear a medic alert bracelet and have an epi pen nearby from Spring to late Fall.
You may have noticed that I wrote “WAS” allergic a couple of times above? That’s because I went through venom immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy for insect sting allergies is a series of allergy shots given to reduce your sensitivity to allergens that cause an allergic reaction. Small doses of allergens are injected under the skin. Over time, allergy shots can reduce the severity of your reaction to allergens. To treat allergies to insect stings, very small amounts of the venom of the insect or insects are used. The treatment also is sometimes called venom immunotherapy (VIT).
Immunotherapy is available to treat allergies to stings from:
- Yellow jackets.
- Paper wasps.
- Fire ants.
A solution of dilute saline containing a very small amount of the insect venom is injected under the skin. At first, you get one or more shots about once a week. The amount of allergen injected is slightly increased each time, unless you have a reaction to the shot.
After about 4 to 6 months of weekly shots, you are usually getting an optimal amount of allergen in the shot-this is called the maintenance dose. After you reach maintenance level, you get the same dose in shots every 4 weeks for another 4 to 6 months. ~WebM.D.
After my first year of shots treating bee allergies, I would only have to visit my Doctor every 6-8 weeks for subsequent shots. This lasted for three years. At that point, my body had built up a resistance to yellowjacket venom, so that any future stings “shouldn’t” leave me with any more than the typical reaction.
I haven’t written about this before because I haven’t been stung since my venom shots ended, so I didn’t have any confirmation that treatment was successful.
Well, unfortunately (and fortunately really) I sat on a bee on Friday.
Yup, I was building in the garage and the little bugger somehow got between my ass and the concrete floor as I was about to sit down. I thought I’d sat on a nail at first and quickly reached around to remove it, only to find a yellowjacket in my hand. I immediately panicked and ran in the house and dropped my drawers for Hubby.
A move like this would normally be most welcome I’m sure, but not when I was jumping around saying “is the stinger still there!?” (Hubby only allows one stinger near my hoo-haw lol). Knowing of my (previous) bee allergies, he scrambled to find an epi pen (which I haven’t had since the venom immunotherapy ended). I chugged half a bottle of children’s Benadryl (all we had on hand) and we waited…
I am THRILLED to announce that there was no reaction whatsoever!! (beyond the typical bump and redness)
With that said/written – I can’t recommend getting venom shots highly enough!
My fear of getting stung is now at natural levels – because it hurts, but not because I might die.
As I understand it, Epi Pens have risen in price from the $100 per that I bought in my 20’s to almost $800 US in some areas – and if you are like me, you’d want to have an epi pen at home and another close by, in a purse or car, should you need it in an emergency. That’s a lot of money – especially when they expire and have to be renewed yearly.
The discomfort of getting the venom immunotherapy for bee allergies (because they do itch and swell at first), and the time it takes to go to your weekly/monthly appointments is tedious…
BUT, if it means that you or your child won’t have an anaphylactic reaction, then I will personally vouch that it is more than worth it.
This time of year is prime-time for yellowjackets, so spread the word and talk to your Doctor if you suffer with bee allergies – it just might save your life!
Have a great one!