Chris Frink got alergist Dr. Nordy Redhead to speak about bee stings. He explained that localized swelling is not a true allergy from allergist perspective. An allergic reaction is classified by life threatening symptoms within minutes. In cases of a bee sting allergy the body creates antibodies that it should not create. The next time a person is stung these antibodies are in place and can cause a massive systemic reaction. Respiratory symptoms and swelling of any body part is possible including the tongue or throat. He also explained that honey bee venom is in a separate class and does not cross react with hornets wasps etc. So, if you are allergic to one you are not necessarily allergic to another. There are bee sting allergy tests that test for the antibody presence. If you are allergic desensitization is an option as well. This consists of a series of dilute venom injections up to the equivalent of two bee stings. Once you reach the target dose the desensitization continues with a dose every 6 weeks for 5 years. This course has ~80% efficacy of reducing a life threatening reaction. This same desensitization is even more effective for other stinging accidents. When the question was asked about honey being good for people with allergies Dr. Nordy said he has not seen any conclusive studies either way. On the contrary he recounted two events of people eating raw honey and having an allergic reaction. Dr. Nordy recommended Benadryl or NSAID to counteract minor reactions. For those with an allergy an Epi-pen can be prescribed.
All of this became immediately relevant when I went out to check the beehives Wednesday evening. As I crouched down next to hive #1 the whole colony fluttered and one bee instantly attacked my left forearm. A few minutes later I checked the hive with no consequence. Within 10 minutes I had taken a Benadryl, so the reaction was limited to minor swelling and itching.