Revolutionary treatment takes the sting out of allergies for Langwith beekeeper

Beekeeper Simon Russ with his hives near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, 7-8 2014.'Picture by Mark Pinder/Guzelian
Beekeeper Simon Russ with his hives near Chesterfield, Derbyshire, 7-8 2014.'Picture by Mark Pinder/Guzelian

There’s a buzz about Simon Russ, and it’s hardly surprising after doctors came up with a revolutionary life-saving treatment to bee stings.

Five years ago he began developing severe symptoms after being stung, and was even hospitalised - which proved a major health hazard for the 49-year-old beekeeper from Langwith Junction.

Previously, he had no adverse reaction to being stung, but one occasion, he was stung in the ear and his whole right leg and left arm began to swell, his lips went numb and he suffered painful spasms.

“I immediately knew this was something different,” he explained.

“I felt as though I was dying. My friend’s wife drove us to the hospital. I remember saying to her ‘I think I’m on my way out’.”

When he got to hospital he spent several hours on an intravenous drip containing antihistamine.

He had gone in to anaphylactic shock and was prescribed an EpiPen to inject himself if he got stung again.

Despite this, Simon was determined not to give up his hobby, instead doing what he could to make sure bees could not come in to contact with his skin.

“I would dress up like the Michelin man,” he joked.

“I’d have three layers of clothes on under my bee-keeping suit and a pair of Marigolds under my bee-keeping gloves.

“I’d seal the tops of my wellies and the ends of my gloves with gaffer tape and wear a balaclava under my suit.

“I carried on that way for a while but I realised there must be another way. I started doing a bit of research, which led to me finding out about the immunotherapy.”

Simon, who keeps around 40 hives, began a three-year course of specialist venom immunotherapy at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, which he has recently finished.

It involves injecting increasing doses of venom weekly, followed by maintenance injections every four to eight weeks for three years.

The first injection contained 10 millionth of a sting, and he reacted in the same way someone without an allergy would react to a normal bee sting.

By the end he was being injected with venom equivalent to two whole stings, and developing nothing more than a raised red bump.

Simon is now effectively cured of his allergy.