Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bee/wasp sting

As I kid I got stung by bees and yellowjackets quite a few times, but I never responded with more than a little red bump and some itching and pain. Then one day, I went on a bike ride in Oakland and got stung on the lip. What happened next surprised the hell out of me and caused me to avoid contact with others for a week. My upper lip turned into a bloated, bright red sausage of rather enormous dimensions. It distorted my entire face and lasted for five days before slowly subsiding. I had trouble eating, drinking and talking.

That happened a good ten years ago. Ever since I have been allergic to bee or wasp stings. I am not sure why this happened all of a sudden but here it is. Since then I have had a few more stings, including one on my forearm that made that arm twice as heavy and twice as big as the other. I was once again incapacitated for a week. Not so much because of the esthetics this time, but because I could not use the arm and had to put it in a sling.

Most recently, a tiny bee got under my glasses at the San Jose International Triathlon and stung me on the eyelid. That happened during the biking leg, about 3 miles from the finish. I thought for sure my race was over. But then somehow, I almost forgot about it, parked my bike and went on the run. I am not sure why, but it took almost 1.5 hours before symptoms appeared. I had all but forgotten about the sting. The race was over, I had taken a shower, and I was looking at the vendor booths, when I suddenly noticed something hanging in front of my eye. Like a curtain on my visual field. From then on, things moved quickly and within 20 minutes my eye was swollen shut and it stayed that way for 3 days.

It may have been the adrenalin of the race, or maybe the dehydration, or both, but the delayed reaction surprised me. What also surprised me was how quickly the pain subsided. Ever since my first "allergic" reaction, stings have become very painful with a long lasting, very intense burn. I did feel the sting in San Jose, but the pain went away almost immediately. I was not kidding when I said I almost forgot about it by the time I finished the bike. It was really gone.

Yesterday I got it again. I was running an eight mile loop close to my house and around mile 3 I felt a burning in my right middle finger. I was just running, never saw an insect or anything. Just the characteristic burning pain. I tried to apply some suction but that clearly did not help. It may even have made it worse by causing vasodilation. I decided to keep on running. By the time I came home it was slightly swollen but not all that bad. I immediately applied cold wraps and have been trying to keep it cold for long periods of time. In between I apply cortisone cream. Unfortunately here I do not have access to the longer acting powerful steroids that I can just prescribe in Belgium. But so be it. I do not feel like going to the emergency room or waiting two weeks for a doctor's appointment.

My right hand is moderately swollen now. I can feel the tightness and the heat. The edema has sunk somewhat because I elevate my arm whenever possible so as to avoid a swollen (and possibly damaged) finger. It appears to be better than other times and I have noticed that the reaction may be less vigorous now than 10 years ago. Nevertheless it is quite obvious. What I have also noticed is that the very local signs (at the site of the sting) are now absent. I can't really see where I was stung, there is no red dot there. Just an entire area that is swollen.

1 comment:

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