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Allergies Health Center

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Children & Bee Stings

Protective Shots Lower Risk, Research Shows

The Buzz on Bee Stings continued...

Some 40% of the participants had been stung again after their initial sting. Moderate reactions to stings included throat and chest discomfort, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and low blood pressure. A reaction was considered severe in cases involving serious breathing difficulties, severe dizziness, marked low blood pressure, or unconsciousness.

Roughly a third of the untreated adults who had experienced moderate to severe reactions as children had similar reactions to later stings, compared with one in 20 treated adults.

See a Specialist

Golden says the findings make it clear that venom immunotherapy is a good idea for children with a history of moderate to severe allergic reactions.

"The message to pediatricians is that their patients who have had these reactions need to be referred to a specialist for evaluation and treatment," Golden says. "And the message for doctors treating adults is that it is important to know a patient's history. They need to understand that a 30-year-old who tells you he had a bad reaction to a bee sting as a kid may still be at risk."

In an editorial accompanying the study, Rebecca Gunchalla, MD, PhD, writes that the new findings disprove the notion that immunotherapy is not needed in children because they outgrow sting allergies.

"It is to be hoped that now, with hard data provided, physicians will be able to move beyond misconceptions and support the use of venom immunotherapy for the children most at risk," she writes.

In an interview with WebMD, Gunchalla says evaluation by a specialist is important for any child who exhibits abnormal reactions to stings. Gunchalla is chief of the allergy division of internal medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

"If a child shows signs of anaphylactic shock, it is an easy call, but there may be nothing more than some coughing and some chest tightening," she says. "Even so, it is important to see a specialist for anything more serious than normal skin reactions."

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