ZocdocAnswersCan bee stings cause anaphylactic shock?

Question

Can bee stings cause anaphylactic shock?

I am allergic to bees. I don't know how allergic, but allergic. I am a 31 year old male and I am going hiking with my girlfriend next month. How should I prepare?

Answer

The answer to your first question about whether bee stings can cause anaphylactic shock is absolutely yes they can - but it depends on who they sting. You see there are different types of allergic reactions in the body, called hypersensitivity reactions. Type 1-4. Anaphylactic shock is a severe form of a type 1 hypersensitivity reaction that involves multiple systems in the body. Anaphylaxis is caused by the degranulation of mast cells or basophils which is mediated by IgE (immunoglobulins). The difference between anaphylaxis and an "anaphylactoid" reaction is that the former is not actually mediated by IgE. Anaphylaxis is not as much due to the allergen itself, as it is the hosts over aggressive immune response to the stimulus. Thus there have been multiple different allergens described that have caused anaphylaxis reactions in different patients. Everything from insect bites, to different foods, and medications have been described. What happens with anaphylaxis, is that the patients body is initially "sensitized" by the first exposure to the allergen. This means that the body has time to synthesize immunoglobulins against that allergen (this is how immunity works as well), but in anaphylaxis the bodies response to a second or third exposure is overly aggressive and can cause significant detrimental effects and even death. Immunotherapy, or desensitization, is one of the best ways to prevent it form occurring. Once exposed, the treatments are diverse and often emergent, but go beyond the scope of this discussion. For this reason, I would definitely recommend a consultation with an allergist to be evaluated and tested. That is the best place to start. I hope this helps.

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