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Taking the Sting Out of Bee Stings

BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Bee season is in full swing, and if you're one of the unlucky ones who has a bad reaction to stings, summertime can be a pain. This new treatment for stings may help make your summer less painful.

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Just the sound of them scares most people, and Chris Scovill is no exception.

"I was mowing and got into a nest of yellow jackets, and was stung probably seven times," Scovill told Ivanhoe.

But his reaction looked more like 70 times.

"Within 24 hours, my arm had swollen, particularly to the elbow, to the extent it looked like Popeye's forearm," Scovill recalled. "My hand was so swollen, I couldn't make a fist."

Scovill had what's called a large local reaction. It's a type of reaction that can cause a person's entire arm or leg to swell from one sting. It's not life threatening, but it can be painful. The swelling can last for days or weeks.

Now a new study by allergists and immunologists at Johns Hopkins found that bee venom therapy, the same treatment used to prevent deadly allergic reactions, also works to minimize large local reactions.

"On average there was both a 50 percent decrease in both the peak size and the duration of the reaction," David Golden, M.D., allergist and immunologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, said.

Patients in the study were injected once a week with increasing doses of bee venom to train the immune system to stop sending the signals that cause swelling.

"Anyone who wants to be outdoors, they're tired of these huge swellings, or getting steroids for them," Dr. Golden explained. "They can be helped. They can prevent these swellings and not have to worry about it anymore."

Scovill volunteered to get stung in the study … and now? Chris no longer gets large swellings, but you can bet he's still wary of bees.

"Now that I feel I have some immunity, it's not the paranoia that I had at one time," Scovill said. "But no, it's one of the drawbacks of working outside."

A drawback that can be fixed with a treatment that's all the buzz. People who have large local reactions to stings should contact their primary care physician and inquire about venom immunotherapy for treatment.

The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

David Golden, MD
Allergist and Immunologist Johns Hopkins Medical Center

American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
Joseph Catapano
Communication Specialist
(703) 248-4772

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Prior Reports
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