Bee stings are usually painful but no big deal otherwise. Sure, your face might look like a ripe tomato or your arm like a large watermelon, but what’s the beef?

If the same allergic reaction, which causes the area near the bee sting to swell occurs in your airway, then you won’t be able to breathe. If your immune system mounts too vigorous of a response, then something called anaphylactic shock develops.

Any phrase with the word shock in it can’t be a good thing. What happens is that the immune system goes into overdrive. All sorts of cells and chemicals are recruited. These in turn lead to severe inflammation. Not only can this result in narrowing of the airway, but many other bad things.

Wheezing caused by narrowing of the airways in the lungs, low blood pressure or shock from arteries that are dilated, and confusion from low oxygen and blood pressure are just three of the life threatening consequences of anaphylactic shock.

If you have had a serious reaction to a bee sting, you should always carry a device called EpiPen. This contains adrenalin, which can be life saving if given as soon as you develop shortness of breath, wheezing, weakness or difficulty swallowing. The device is pretty cool in that it doesn’t contain a needle. You simply press the device firmly over the midportion of the top of your leg for about ten seconds and the adrenaline is injected via pressure through your skin ( and even through most pants!)

Of course you will need to go immediately to the emergency room thereafter, ad the adrenalin can wear off quickly.

Talk to your doctor if you have more questions about serious bee sting reactions.