GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Allergic reactions from bee stings are peaking this time of year with more people outside.

Experts say if you’re susceptible to an allergic reaction and are not prepared to get treatment, the results can be serious.

“If not treated, the symptoms can be devastating,” said Mark Meijer, the president and founder of Life EMS Ambulance.

Meijer stresses it’s critical to get help quickly if you have a serious reaction.

“If you’re gonna wait to see if it gets better, the swelling, stuff like that, typically does not,” Meijer said.

So far this year, the ambulance service has treated 171 people for allergic reactions or anaphylaxis, with 52 of those caused by bee stings.

Meijer said that number is a tiny fraction of the huge number of patients Life EMS treats and/or transports each year.

“It’s fortunately fairly rare in the kind of emergencies we see,” he said.

But it’s not unheard of. The ambulance service has still treated at least 100 people for bee stings in each of the last three years.

Bees can become more aggressive late in the summer and early fall. Each year for the last three years, August has been Life EMS’ busiest month for bee stings. 

In August 2022, Life EMS treated 49 people for allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Twenty-four of those individuals had suffered bee stings. In total that year, the ambulance service treated 311 people for allergic reactions or anaphylaxis, with 105 of those individuals having suffered a bee sting.

News 8 has heard several medical calls from around West Michigan involving people stung by bees since Wednesday morning.

For example, a man was stung multiple times on Wednesday in Oshtemo Township. First responders came quickly, treated him and took him to a local hospital.

If it’s a severe reaction, you might have a raspy throat, swelling, hives or difficulty breathing. Meijer says the symptoms won’t go away and can even worsen until you treat them.

“If you have more than just a little bump and you start feeling like you can’t swallow or stuff like that, you need to call for help because it certainly may continue to progress,” Meijer said.

When medics arrive on scene, they focus on airway control, providing oxygen and administering medications like Epinephrin. If you’re allergic to bees, Meijer says being prepared starts with keeping an EpiPen on you if you’re out and about.

“You need to access that quickly before there’s a problem with the airway and that kind of thing,” he said.

If you’re on a trip, be aware of your surroundings.

“If you’re at a beach in an unfamiliar location, make sure you’re aware if you call 911 how you’ll tell responders where you are,” Meijer said. “If you’re at Lake Michigan and you live 30 miles away, you need to know what’s gonna happen at Lake Michigan. Is help nearby where I am?”

If you see someone in need, know the signs and get them help as soon as you can.

“If somebody has an allergy propensity or if they have asthma or have some breathing issues and stuff, it can really come on fast,” Meijer said. “So we need to get there and be able to administer life-saving medication. It can literally save somebody’s life.”

The Mayo Clinic said if you’ve stung by a bee before and had a serious allergic reaction, the next time it happens you have a 25% to 65% chance of anaphylaxis.