Bee Venom Allergy – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Bee venom allergy

After a bee sting, the skin swells and turns red, and shortness of breath and dizziness follow. No, this reaction is not normal. A life-threatening bee venom allergy is present.

What is bee venom allergy?

Bee venom allergy is a form of allergy . An allergy is an overreaction of the body to actually harmless substances.

Many people get itching or localized swelling after an insect bite. That’s nothing special. With a bee venom allergy, however, these symptoms are much more acute and threatening.

They appear within the first few minutes or even seconds after the sting and can be life-threatening. Around five percent of the population in Germany suffers from a bee venom allergy.


The causes of a bee venom allergy are not easy to name. After all, researchers don’t yet know why an allergy develops in the first place.

Assumptions relate to excessive cleanliness, harmful environmental influences, stress and an incorrect diet high in protein and sugar. In order to suffer from bee venom allergy, at least one bee sting must have occurred in the past.

Only then is the increased sensitization to the bee venom present. Accordingly, one can only try to avoid bee stings in order not to suffer from bee venom allergy.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Slight redness, swelling and itching is a completely normal reaction to a bee sting and occurs in almost every victim. These reactions are much more severe in people who are allergic to bee venom. Bee venom allergy often leads to very pronounced skin changes at the site of the puncture.

The skin or adjacent joints swell severely , redness develops, which is accompanied by severe itching , which often occurs all over the body. Watery and reddened eyes that are itchy and associated with a runny nose are also typical symptoms of a bee venom allergy.

Some sufferers also experience abdominal pain , which is accompanied by nausea and vomiting . In addition, there is often swelling in the face and neck in connection with swallowing and speech difficulties. However, these side effects usually subside after about a day.

On the other hand, allergic reactions that affect the circulation or breathing can be dangerous. The first signs are anxiety , a general feeling of weakness, acute breathing difficulties, palpitations and loss of consciousness . In addition, these symptoms often precede anaphylactic shock , which can lead to cardiac arrest. Here, relevant symptoms must be reacted to immediately and the emergency doctor called.

Diagnosis & History

If there is a bee venom allergy, there is a risk of death with every further sting. Symptoms will likely get worse each time.

If at the beginning there was only extreme swelling at the puncture site (grade 0), the next prick can cause nausea and severe itching. At grade 3, shortness of breath and dizziness are added. In the worst case (grade 4), the person affected collapses from anaphylactic shock . At such a moment, the greatest danger to life threatens!

Sometimes one of the stages is skipped and life-threatening shock occurs immediately with the first sting. Since no one knows in advance if and when this could happen, bee venom allergy consistently belongs in medical hands. The allergist will use a blood test to find out the severity of the bee venom allergy.


Bee venom allergy can lead to various complications. If those affected are stung by a bee, the first thing that occurs is the typical skin rash with redness and itching. Depending on the severity of the allergy, this can lead to swelling of the neck and face as well as severe swallowing and speaking difficulties.

Other complications include a runny nose, watery and itchy eyes, and shortness of breath with the risk of suffocation. As the disease progresses, abdominal cramps often occur, which can be associated with nausea and vomiting. The swelling can cut off the blood supply and, depending on the location of the sting, lead to signs of paralysis and movement disorders.

In the case of an existing bee venom allergy, a sting can also trigger heart palpitations and feelings of weakness, which in turn lead to anxiety and panic. If left untreated, circulatory collapse occurs, which is accompanied by loss of consciousness. If left untreated, bee venom allergy can lead to death.

Secondary complications can occur if the bee sting becomes infected or if a fall and further injury occur as a result of unconsciousness. Complications can arise during treatment if the person concerned does not have an emergency kit at hand or if the acute treatment is carried out improperly or too late.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you have already been diagnosed with bee venom allergy, you should definitely consult a doctor in the event of a bee sting. If certain symptoms appear after the sting, in particular nausea, dizziness and shortness of breath, the emergency doctor must be called immediately. In this case, there is a risk of circulatory shock, which can be fatal.

People who do not know if they are allergic to bee venom should monitor themselves or their child closely after a sting. Burning pain and swelling at the puncture site immediately after the sting is normal. However, after removing the sting and cooling the puncture site with ice cubes or a cold washcloth, you should see an improvement quickly. If this is not the case, there is a suspicion that a person is allergic to bee venom. This suspicion should be clarified by a doctor, as the next sting can be life-threatening in the event of an allergy.

In any case, a doctor’s visit is necessary if the person concerned still feels severe pain several hours after the sting and the swelling increases instead of receding. In the event of shortness of breath or the first signs of shock, the emergency doctor must be called immediately.

Treatment & Therapy

A bee venom allergy must by no means remain untreated. First and foremost, any further stitch should be avoided. This avoidance is easier than with a pollen allergy .

After all, most bees don’t belong to any aggressive species and only sting when they feel threatened. If a bee venom allergy is confirmed, the person affected must carry emergency medication with them around the clock. These include a breathing spray and an adrenaline injection. The treatment of a bee venom allergy always belongs in experienced hands. Hyposensitization is currently the only way to treat bee venom allergy. A small amount of the allergy-causing bee venom is injected under the patient’s skin in slowly increasing doses.

Since this procedure can be very dangerous in the case of a bee venom allergy, the therapy is only carried out under medical supervision within a hospital stay of several days. Even after that, a bee venom allergy is not cured. In 90 percent of those treated, there is no longer an excessively strong reaction after another sting. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long. For this reason, it must be checked annually whether the protection is still effective.

If not, the desensitization must be repeated. In addition to hyposensitization, a bee sting should be avoided at all costs. Therefore, walking barefoot, strongly scented perfumes and excited movements near bees are taboo in the case of bee venom allergy.

Outlook & Forecast

A bee venom allergy always requires treatment because it can be life-threatening for those affected. At first there may only be a slight swelling after a bee sting, but the next one can cause severe itching and nausea. Since the symptoms increase from time to time, shortness of breath and dizziness can follow, in the worst case an anaphylactic shock.

However, since there is no certainty that the reactions will slowly increase, a bee venom allergy must be treated by a doctor, even the first sting can be life-threatening. Only a blood test by the doctor can assess how the body reacts to the bee venom.

If the doctor has already diagnosed a bee venom allergy, it is important for those affected to carry an emergency kit with them. In severe cases, hyposensitization is necessary, which is carried out under supervision as part of inpatient treatment.

In about 90% of cases, the reactions to another bee sting are more moderate, but the allergy cannot be cured in this way. The experience of professionals shows that the protection only lasts for a limited time and should therefore be checked annually. To minimize the risk, walking barefoot, intense perfume or panic reactions are taboo when bees are around.


It does not seem possible to protect yourself from bee venom allergy. The researchers still know too little about the development of an allergy. As a general rule, you should make sure that someone who is allergic to bee venom always has their medication with them in case of an emergency.

This includes a cortisone spray (in case of shortness of breath) and a syringe set. Anyone suffering from a bee venom allergy must immediately inject the medication into their thighs if they get stung. If he is no longer able to do this, someone else has to do it.

For this reason, family, friends and work colleagues should be made aware of the bee venom allergy and the correct use of the syringe.

You can do that yourself

People with a bee venom allergy should avoid bee stings if possible. Appropriate clothing and footwear can be used to reliably prevent stings and thus contact with bee venom. Special insect sprays and similar products also help to prevent a sting from occurring in the first place. Allergy sufferers should also not wear bright jewelry and avoid meadows with many bees.

If you come into contact with bees, you can reliably avoid a sting by remaining calm. For emergencies, allergy sufferers should always carry a first-aid kit with adrenaline pre- filled syringe, antihistamine , cortisone preparations and cooling spray. If, despite all precautionary measures, a sting occurs, the necessary measures can be taken immediately. However, the sting and bee must first be removed. The bee should not be squeezed, otherwise additional poison can be released.

In addition to first aid, an emergency doctor must be consulted. If there are signs of circulatory problems, immediate emergency medical assistance is required. If fainting occurs , other life-saving measures may need to be taken. The emergency services should then be informed immediately about the allergy and the circumstances surrounding the sting in order to ensure rapid treatment.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.