Telluride Inside… and Out is proud to feature the Telluride Medical Center’s MEDICAL MOMENT, a weekly column that answers common medical questions in pop culture. Have a question for the doctors? Click here┬áto send.

Dr. Diana Koelliker answers this week’s question:


Diana Koelliker, MD

Diana Koelliker, MD

If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to a prior bee sting or if you begin to experience severe symptoms (hives all over your body, swelling of the mouth or throat, difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath or wheezing, chest pain, fainting, etc.), immediately call 911 and/or use an EpiPen.

Luckily, severe reactions are rare, but they can be serious and even fatal.

Most bee stings in non-allergic persons require little more than first aid at home.

First, try to remove the stinger if it is still present. You can use a credit card by scraping it over the surface or a pair of tweezers. The method of removal doesn’t matter as much as trying to remove the stinger quickly.

Applying ice to the sting site can provide some symptomatic relief, but be sure to have some sort of barrier (like a washcloth) between the ice and your skin.

Consider taking an antihistamine (like diphenhydramine or Benadryl) to reduce the itching and swelling. You may also take Ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief.

If it has been more than 10 years since your last Tetanus shot, you should see your doctor in the next 2-3 days to get a Tetanus booster.

Wash the sting site with soap and water and apply antibiotic ointment.

Watch for signs of infection, which can develop in the next 2-3 days. Frequently, bee stings will result in impressive local reactions (redness, swelling, warmth, etc.) and can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from a bacterial infection. If you have doubt, see your primary care provider.

If you develop severe symptoms as listed above, seek medical care. You should also seek medical attention if you sustain more than 10-20 stings at one time. (This is particularly true with children or the elderly, if you are stung in the mouth or throat or directly in the eyeball.)

If you do experience a severe allergic reaction to bee stings, consider having a self-administered injectable epinephrine emergency sting kit, such as an EpiPen. Your doctor can prescribe that for you. Your doctor may even recommend allergy shots if indicated.

If you have any questions, feel free to call us at the Telluride Medical Center and we will do our best to help answer your questions.

Have a great summer!

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. You can choose your own medical provider visit with a specialist or take advantage of their Mountain Skin Care services. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health. For more Medical Moments on TIO, Click Here.

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