Suggested lead: The sting from a bee, wasp or yellow jacket is usually seen as an annoyance, but for a small number of people, it can be deadly. Tom Britt has more.
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For most people, bee stings are painful but temporary. But some two percent of those who are stung can actually suffer life-threatening reactions. Dr. Larry Williams of Duke University Medical Center says typical reactions might include some redness and swelling around the sting. But for those who react badly, the symptoms can be much more widespread.
“The allergic reactions that are dangerous are what’s referred to as anaphylaxis. This is an allergic reaction that involves multiple systems of the body.”
Williams says symptoms include breaking out in hives away from the area of the sting, difficulty breathing, and, in some cases, chest pain that could indicate a heart attack. The best defense, he says, is to ask your doctor for injectable epinephrin that can be administered immediately after the sting. Otherwise, he says, simply wear light-colored clothing and avoid wearing perfumes when outdoors. I’m Tom Britt.
Williams says there is now a treatment that can help those few people who are severely allergic to stings, but you have to ask for it.
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“If you have a major allergic reaction to a sting, ask the physician about a referral for insect venom, skin testing and desensitization.”