How Long Does Bee Venom Stay In Your System

How Long Does Bee Venom Stay In Your System
Positive young female therapist gestures as she talks with a female client. The therapist smiles warmly as she talks with the young woman.

Many readers are interested in the following topic: This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Get Stung by a Bee. We are happy to note, that our authors have already studied the modern research about the topic you are interested in. Based on the information provided in the latest medical digests, modern research and surveys, we provide extensive answer. Keep reading to find out more.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Bees, Wasps, and Hornets.”

What Is Bee Sting Serum Sickness?

Serum sickness is a reaction similar to an allergy, though often it does not occur as quickly as an allergic reaction. Serum sickness can be caused by exposure to certain medications, some snake antivenom, some vaccines that are antiserum-based, or the sting of a bee or other insect.

Why Does Serum Sickness Happen?

Your blood is made up of different parts, one of which is plasma. Plasma is the clear, liquid part of your blood’s makeup. It doesn’t contain any blood cells. It does contain proteins and antibodies that are necessary to your immune system. Plasma also contains antiserum – a protein-based compound that your body develops after exposure to a germ or toxin.

In serum sickness, your body mistakes a protein in the antiserum as a danger, and it triggers an immune response to it.

What Causes Bee Sting Serum Sickness?

Bees, wasps, and hornets are all related, but their abilities to sting and levels of aggression are different. For example, honeybees and bumblebees are not very aggressive, and they often don’t sting unless directly bothered. When they do sting, they can only inject their stinger once. Wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets, however, can be more aggressive and are able to sting multiple times.

People can have a wide range of reactions to stings from these kinds of insects.

Immediate reaction. An immediate reaction occurs minutes to hours after the sting. You will experience pain, redness, swelling, and mild itching at the site of the sting.

Delayed reaction. Sometimes you may not experience a reaction until 4 hours or longer after the sting occurs. At that point you may begin to experience hives, fever, joint pain, swelling, and headache.

Allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can occur in just minutes up to several hours after the sting. A true allergic reaction can include a large local reaction with redness and swelling, fever, and nausea.

Anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is the most severe of possible reactions to an insect sting. It usually occurs 5-30 minutes after the sting. An anaphylactic reaction can cause airway swelling, heart irregularities, loss of consciousness, shock, or other symptoms that can be fatal.

Bee sting serum sickness. A less common — but still potentially very dangerous — reaction to an insect sting is bee sting serum sickness. In this instance, your immune system reacts to the foreign toxin introduced into your body by the bee sting. Typically, bee sting serum sickness occurs a few days or a week after the insect sting.

Some recorded cases of bee sting serum sickness have been observed after people have intentionally used bee toxins as an alternative therapy. Some practitioners offer bee venom injection therapy as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic inflammatory diseases. This practice has not been widely studied, and it has not proven to be helpful. It can cause a serum sickness reaction.

What Are the Symptoms of Bee Sting Serum Sickness?

Bee Sting Serum Sickness frequently causes these symptoms:

  • Rash. This usually starts in a small area, gradually spreads across your body, and can open into small lesions.
  • Fever. Fever caused by serum sickness can rise over 101 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Joint pain. Pain is most common in hands, wrists, knees, ankles, and shoulders.
  • Swelling.Edema – buildup of fluid – occurs in your hands, feet, and face.

To diagnose bee sting serum sickness, your doctor will likely ask about these symptoms and want to see any rash that you have developed. You should also be ready to let your doctor know when you were stung, how many times you were stung, and — if possible — what kind of insect stung you.

Treatment for Bee Sting Serum Sickness

The majority of the time, the symptoms of bee sting serum sickness will improve on their own within 48 hours. As the chemical from the bee toxin is filtered out of your body, the sickness will begin to go away.

Your doctor may prescribe a non-steroidal pain medication — like ibuprofen or naproxen — to manage your swelling, fever, and general discomfort, as well as antihistamines to reduce your rash.

Usually, the likelihood for a complete recovery from bee sting serum sickness is very good. It is important, however, to avoid further exposure to the sting that triggered the reaction.

Research has shown that people with bee or wasp allergies can lessen their chances of having a serious reaction — either a severe allergic reaction or serum sickness — by using venom immunotherapy (VIT). This course of immunizations provides some protection against the impacts of accidental insect stings, and may be recommended by your doctor.

Avoiding Insect Stings

The best way to prevent bee sting serum sickness is to avoid being stung by a bee, wasp, or another insect. Some ways to prevent insect stings include:

  • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily to prevent the odor of sweat.
  • Stay away from flowering plants when possible.
  • Keep outdoor areas clear of food or drinks that may attract insects.
  • If a stinging insect is flying around, remain calm. Do not swat or irritate it.
  • If there is an insect in your car, slowly stop the car and open all the windows.
  • Avoid perfumed or heavily scented soaps, shampoos, lotions, and deodorants.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: Richard Usatine, MD

Asia Pacific Allergy: “Serum sickness reaction with skin involvement induced by bee venom injection therapy.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Bees, Wasps, and Hornets.”

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: “Late-onset allergic reactions, including serum sickness, after insect stings.”

National Jewish Health: “Insect Sting Allergy (Ant, Wasp and Bee Stings): Symptoms.”

Postepy dermatologii i alergologii: “Safety and efficacy of venom immunotherapy: a real life study.”

Rixe, N., Tavarez, M. Serum Sickness, StatPearls Publishing, 2020.

The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne: “Serum Sickness and Serum Sickness-like reactions (SSLRs).”

University of Minnesota Extension: “Wasps and bees.

This Is What Happens to Your Body When You Get Stung by a Bee

Your body does a whole lot of work to fight back against the sting.

May 2, 2019
May 2, 2019

If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, you likely recall the nasty side effects that followed the sting—like the pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the attack. When we get a bee sting, our bodies do a whole lot of work to fight against the bee’s venom—and in nearly all cases, our immune systems provide an impeccable line of defense. (Only 90 to 100 individuals die every year from allergy-related bee sting complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

To peel back the curtain on the relentless systems that keep your body in check when you’re stung by a bee, check out the following steps that’ll make you feel just a bit safer the next time a bee flies your way.

Bee venom spreads immediately and quickly.

It’s important to understand that a bee’s venom is water-soluble, meaning that it dissolves in water. This proves to be bad news for humans, considering most of the human body is made of water—60 percent, to be exact—which therefore allows the venom to spread more quickly.

Your body’s white blood cells fight back.

After a bee sting, your body’s first line of defense comes in the form of white blood cells that arrive to fight off antigens in the bee’s venom, according to Wake Forest University’s Dr. Buddy Marterre, MD, who’s also a beekeeper. As this war wages on in your body, redness, swelling, heat, and pain may occur at the site of the sting.

The bee releases melittin into your body, which stimulates pain receptors.

Upon injecting its stinger into your skin, the bee releases a chemical called melittin into your body. Melittin is cytotoxic, which means that it destroys red blood cells immediately upon entering the body by breaking up their membranes, according to chemistry expert Suendues Noori of CurioCity.

On top of that, the melittin stimulates your body’s pain receptors. “It contributes to itching and swelling, and is the primary cause of the sting’s pain,” according to Marterre.

Your body releases histamine, causing swelling.

To help your immune system fight the spreading of venom, melittin triggers your body to produce histamine, according to the National Center of Biotechnology Information. This histamine helps your body fight off an infection, and it’s also what causes the swelling.

“Histamine dilates blood vessels, makes them leaky, and activates the endothelium (or lining of the capillaries). This leads to local edema (swelling), warmth, redness, and the attraction of other inflammatory cells to the site,” Marterre explains.

Your blood pressure drops.

With the bursting of the red blood cells at the site of the sting comes the eventual expansion of your blood vessels. This subsequently can cause your blood pressure to drop significantly, according to Marterre. ae0fcc31ae342fd3a1346ebb1f342fcb

Your nerve tissue is damaged.

Three percent of bee venom is comprised of the protein apamin, which, when injected into your body, destroys nerve tissue. According to Marterre, apamin is “unique to bee venom and is a neurotoxin, [meaning] it is toxic to nerve conduction.”

Your kidneys work overtime.

Once a bee’s venom damages cell tissue in the body, it’s the kidney’s job to eliminate this damaged tissue in order to keep the body healthy and ready to face further traumas.

However, you shouldn’t worry about your renal function: The only time that the kidneys may be damaged from a bee sting is when the person affected is stung multiple times, as this can present an overabundance of damaged cell tissue for the kidneys to repair. Still, as a 2016 study published in the journal Annals of African Medicine notes that “acute renal failure (ARF) following bee stings is an uncommon complication.”

Your heart and adrenal glands are stimulated.

The proteins present in bee venom—including apamin and melittin—stimulate the heart and adrenal glands to work harder in order to push the infection out of your body, according to Mayo Clinic. In turn, this can cause your pulse to speed up.

The proteins also cause the adrenal glands to produce cortisol—that’s the hormone most commonly associated with stress—in order to protect the body from further infection.

Your immune system can overreact.

In the most serious and rare bee sting cases, the immune system can overreact to the sting, causing a life-threatening allergic response called anaphylaxis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms range from minor inconveniences (like hives and itching) to severe issues (like loss of consciousness).

You’re not in the clear for days.

Though delayed responses to bee stings are incredibly rare, they usually occur in those with a weak immune system, as the body’s defenses are not able to coordinate a proper response to the sting. “The reaction is sometimes delayed by as much as six days and therefore requires immediate transportation to an emergency room and hospitalization,” Marterre notes.

While symptoms of this delayed response vary, they range from inflammation of the brain, nerves, blood vessels, and kidneys, to the possibility of a serum sickness which can cause a rash, fever, or joint pain, according to Dr. Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD. And for other signs to be wary of, here are 17 Allergy Symptoms You Need to Stop Ignoring.

To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to follow us on Instagram!

Ashley Moor

Ashley hails from Dayton, Ohio, and has more than six years of experience in print and digital media. Read more