Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bee well . . .

I was cleaning out a flower bed a few years ago when I thought I had gotten into some stinging nettle. Fortunately I was wearing gloves, heavy shoes and socks. When I looked down, my left wrist and hand as well as my left ankle were covered with bees, and they were mad!

I immediately peeled off the gloves, shoes, socks and my jeans. But I was covered with stings, and I don't think I'm exaggerating to say there were 25 to 35 stings. I had been stung many times in the past with no ill effects, but this was pretty dire. I took two Benedryl tablets, put on fresh clothes and headed for the hospital. I didn't feel well, but there was no constriction in my throat, no trouble breathing.

It was Labor Day weekend, so there was no one around to take me to the hospital. I hopped in the car and called my son so that he was on the phone with me while I traveled the 10 miles to the hospital in Plymouth. I felt a bit sick to my stomach, but figured maybe it was just the pain, which was intense! Yes, I was traveling to the same Plymouth, IN that has a blueberry festival on Labor Day. When I got to the emergency room, I went to the desk and told her I had gotten multiple stings and was not feeling well. She told me to have a seat. I was sharing the room with people suffering with heat prostration, sick kids, and a couple of people with wounds of one sort or another.

Rumor has it that as many as 500,000 attend the Blueberry Festival over a four-day period. Do I have to tell you the waiting room at the hospital was packed? I sat there for 15 minutes or so, and went to the desk a couple of times and was told to go back and sit down. I finally asked the woman behind the desk, "If I am allergic to bee stings, wouldn't I be dead by now?"

She answered, "Probably." I went home.

The bees that got me were ground bees, not in a hive. Picture courtesy of Heather Valley Honey.

Not long after the bee incident, I noticed I was having trouble with my homemade skin care products. I went to a dermatologist. I experimented with the ingredients. But still, I could only use my night cream and moisturizer about once a week, or I could literally pull strips of skin off my face! Gee, a chemical peel for free!

Then I started making deodorant, and after using it for about a week, I noticed a ring of fiery red skin under each arm. I checked ingredients. The only ingredient it had in common with my moisturizers was - you guessed it - local beeswax! Being of a scientific bent, I then deliberately used a lotion bar, consisting of beeswax, shea butter and sweet almond oil, on my hands all day. By that evening, I had open cracks in angry red skin between my finger.

I told my dermatologist what I had done, and she suggested I get an Epi-Pen. If I was that allergic to beeswax, odds are that I would be allergic to bee stings as well.

I went years without being stung, and of course my Epi-Pen expired. Then last summer I fell in the yard and had the misfortune to fall on a bee. I had an angry and large red welt on my stomach, but that was all. So I figured I was okay, no anaphylactic shock to worry about. I didn't replace my Epi-Pen.

Two weeks ago, while cleaning up my grill on my newly stained deck, bees were humming around, and I ignored them. Until I got stung right below the eye, that is. I immediately put yarrow on it - which is a mild anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory. All was well.

When I undressed to get ready for bed, my chest was covered in blood blisters. I then got a severe case of intestinal distress, which bothered me for several days. I also developed hives all over my back. I lived on Benedryl for nearly a week! I also ordered a new Epi-Pen. This is not good. I will admit I am a little frightened of bees now, and I hate to mow lawn. No matter how hot it is, I wear a long sleeve shirt, gloves, and shoes and socks. I also carry Benedryl in my pocket while I am waiting for my Epi-Pen to arrive from the UK. $112 there, $700 in US. Medicare covers $250 of it, big deal. I'll wait and hope the bees leave me alone for the time being.

I still have hives on my back, and it was bad enough today that I just took a Benedryl. I really would love to take a nap about now!

Silver lining - I have developed a line of face creams without beeswax. I still carry my old stand-bys, wish I could still use them, mais c'est la vie.

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