Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bee Stings: Serum Sickness

Well Kevin and I are potentially facing a few more days of rain this week and as our colonies are building up, we may as well post a few anecdotal stories to tide us over.

Everyone knows about the associated problem with annoying bee's, and that's that they sting you, rightly so :)

In most conversations regarding stings, you find people fall into one of two discussions, they either relate how they are fairly immune, or how they are highly susceptible; suffering anaphylactic shock.

I wanted to tell a short story of my own experience which put me somewhere in between.

Whilst helping a beekeeper in the past I had chance to be stung a few times. The first time I was stung I removed the barb quickly and suffered minor effects. Initial pain lasting a few seconds, followed by stiffness and significant swelling over a few hours. My heart rate was also raised slightly in the first hour or so.

My finger (the site of the sting) became stiff and difficult to bend over the course of a week, but I had the general feeling my joints became more fluid once the stiffness subsided. The site also itched quite a bit after that.

Nothing out of the ordinary you might think until the next time I was stung.

I received another sting on my finger some weeks later and decided that I was a tough guy (I have learnt a lot since then) so I was very slow and casual in the process of removing the sting - big mistake if you ever have a sting - the bee's stinger has a ratchet mechanism which given the opportunity works its way further into your skin over time, you also receive a larger dose of venom!

To cut a long story short, the effects I felt from this second sting were the same but were marginally more pronounced, with one added bonus (and this is the point of my story) I had some ill effects a few days later.

Ever had chicken pox or some other form of illness that makes you feel terrible. Well a few days after my sting I was feeling absolutely awful, I had a pretty significant temperature, cold sweats, my joints really ached and I felt like I had a bad case of flu.

Putting two and two together I wondered if my immune system had manned a response and I did some research on the web to find that some people experience a phenomenon called 'Serum Sickness' in which your bodies immune system mans a response to foreign chemicals like venoms.

Ultimately the effects of the sickness passed fairly quickly, which was one of the reasons I attributed the effects to serum sickness, but still it was a very interesting experience.

If anyone has had a similar experience from a Bee sting I would love to hear from you, other wise you can read more about serum sickness here, http://www.answers.com/topic/serum-sickness you can also google 'serum sickness bee stings' for a bunch of information.

The moral of the story is, remove a bee sting as soon as you safely can. Leaving the sting in wont prove anything and won't win you any prizes.

Personally I keep an epinephrine pen handy now for my own use in case of a more adverse reaction the next time I am stung.

15 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I too am a beginner at bee keeping. Like you I have had interesting experiences when stung. I have now been stung 7 times and the most recent has been nothing like the first. I have been told that I should be building up an immunity to the venom, something like after 50 times. Well, the first time I was stung in the joint of my finger and I didn't even realize I had been stung. I thought I had managed to get a sliver while working with the hive. The next time I was stung on the side of my face. I recognized the sensation was the same as the finger incident, so thought all would be okay. The next morning I woke up with my eye swollen shut. This lasted for a week. I have since been stung in other various places and the area gets hot, red and swollen and lasts for about a week. The latest area started on my shin, which has gown to about 8 inches by 6 inches.
Each time, I take greater care in garbing up but I have been stung right through my jeans. My next line of defense is to use my husband's insulated Carharts.

Ben said...

I got stung on the finger. Same as you, sweled stiff and itchy. After the swelling died down I woke up one day feeling nausiated with a headache for a couple days. I just thought I had gotten a mild cold or flu. But this sounds exactly the same. Funny thing is I never put the two together till I read your post. I ended up here cause I was looking for sites on the topic of barb still being in my finger. After I got the stinger out the little tiny barb didn't come out and worked it's way into my finger like a splinter.

Adrienne said...

I was stung multiple times by yellowjackets when I stepped on their nest (stupid!) a few summers ago. The stings hurt for a day or two and then went away. Approximately a week later all the stings CAME BACK! And way, way, way worse than the original stings! I can't remember if I had the under-the-weather symptoms but I was told at the time it was serum sickness.

Mar said...

My 11 year old was stung by a bee on a Wednesday afternoon, she became very sick the following Sunday. I assumed she had the chicken pox. Wrong! It was Serum sickness.

She was swimming with a friend when she was stung by a bee on her left bicep. She told me it did take her some time to remove the stinger. How much time elapsed I'm not sure.

After the sting, there was very little pain, a couple of hours later it did become red and itchy. The next day the redness extended several inches in every direction from the sting. We didn't worry about the sting we figured in afew days it would go away.

Sunday morning she woke up with a rash, we figured it was food allergy. We went on to a swim meet, by that afternoon the rash was every where, from the top of her foot to her cheeks.. I gave her a dose of Benadryl she fell asleep. A couple of hours later she woke up with a fever, the rest of the symptoms developed fast, stomach pain, back pain, swollen lips, fever,etc. The scariest symptom, the leg pain, she kept saying, "I feel as if I can't walk, My legs really hurt."

Her pediatrician gave her a shot of prednisone, and followed this with a 5 day presciption of the drug. Its been 5 hours since the shot she feels a little better but she's still pretty sick.
Hope it doesn't take too much longer for her to get better.

BTW, thank you for posting this. It makes me feel better knowing other people have had serum sickness and they survived. :)

Joy said...

So now I know what it is anyway. A week ago I ran the lawnmower over a nest of sweat bees. I estimate I was stung about 16 - 20 times. Althought I was breathing fast after the incident, it wasn't a reaction - I was just shook up by the even. Well I loaded up on benedryl and took one day off of work, and treated the stings locally w a baking-soda paste I made with body lotion. Five days in, my symptoms were mostly cleared up and I thought, good - end of story. Eight days after the stings, the rashes and itching at the sting sites is back worse than in the first place, and I'm back on the benedryl. What do I get to expect next???

James said...

I didn’t know that there a disease called Serum sickness. Now I know that just because a person have a reaction to medicines does not necessarily mean that he has allergies.

Regards,
Serum sickness

Nicole Salgado said...

Yesterday afternoon my 15-month old daughter was stung by a bee in her right index finger. Neither her father nor I are allergic to beestings, so although she initially cried when stung around 4 pm & when I removed the stinger immediately, I was feeling relaxed when she calmed down. The problem didn't start until that night. I'd given her paracetamol for the pain right after the sting, but during her bath around 8:30 pm, my husband called me in that she was shaking. Turns out she had a fever of 102, which responded to more paracetamol. She had a hard time sleeping at night, and in the morning, woke up with a temp. of 103. I looked up the cause and found this http://www.medicinenet.com/bee_and_wasp_sting/page2.htm Appears that she had #3, what's considered a toxic reaction to the sting. Since it's usually associated with multiple stings & it was only one, I'm nervous that she may develop antibodies & a possible strong allergic rxn in the future. I really hope not because we love bees and there's a hive on our shared property. We may unfortunately have to get rid of it now to reduce the risk. Crossing our fingers...

Natisha Miller said...

Hello, glad I came across your blog. I got stung by a wasp about a year ago on my arm, on the inner side and I felt sick, dizzy, sweaty right after it happened. The very next day, I became very ill like having the flu. I may have had a slight fever. Then just a few days ago, I got stung by a honey bee by stepping on it and it stung me on my little toe. My husband is a beekeeper and we have 4 hives. I apologized for stepping on one of his ladies! Stupid me, pulled the stinger out with tweezers, and it swelled a little bit. A few hours later, I was very ill, and the entire next day. I had severe diarrhea, cramps, and felt awful. At one time, I even felt very very achy, like my joints hurt all over. I am wondering if I am allergic to wasps and bees. I love our bees, and always will, even if I get stung. It just makes me respect them more! Thanks for your blog!

Natisha Miller said...

Hello, glad I came across your blog. I got stung by a wasp about a year ago on my arm, on the inner side and I felt sick, dizzy, sweaty right after it happened. The very next day, I became very ill like having the flu. I may have had a slight fever. Then just a few days ago, I got stung by a honey bee by stepping on it and it stung me on my little toe. My husband is a beekeeper and we have 4 hives. I apologized for stepping on one of his ladies! Stupid me, pulled the stinger out with tweezers, and it swelled a little bit. A few hours later, I was very ill, and the entire next day. I had severe diarrhea, cramps, and felt awful. At one time, I even felt very very achy, like my joints hurt all over. I am wondering if I am allergic to wasps and bees. I love our bees, and always will, even if I get stung. It just makes me respect them more! Thanks for your blog!

April said...

Thank you for this blog. I had serum sickness from wasp stings on three different occasions. I will post my experience, if I can get this to go through as I have been trying.
April

April said...

I was stung by a wasp in July of 2009 under my arm. We traveled in an RV on vacation for three weeks. A rash developed and I had bouts of feeling ill, but thought it was the change of time. In September I sat on a yellow jacket on my golf cart seat and was stung on my thigh. I had no reaction at the time, but the pain, but a few days later, I was extremely tired, nauseous, jittery, achey, blurred vision, skin breaking out and all around very sick. My doctor thought it was an allergic reaction and I did think of the sting. This illness lasted three weeks and I was so glad to be rid of it. In November I grabbed my backdoor handle and was stung by a paper wasp on my ring finger. I could feel the strongest sense of venom shooting up my arm and my hand swelled like a boxing glove. Even though I started to feel bad, it took three weeks before I collapsed in bed and was there the whole winter. It was a nightmare with my immune system completey out of whack. I am a runner and could not even walk in my yard. My doctor said it was an allergic reaction, but I didn't think of the sting until the middle of the night and immediately looked on the computer, finding serum sickness caused by stings. It was a life saver, at least psyhcologically. I had to go to the ER a couple of times and they had me go to every specialist in the book with so many scary tests. An environmental doctor in California was referred to me and he said it was delayed onset reaction to the venom. My friends still thought I was depressed. Your web site was so helpful. It took a year and a half to feel normal and run a 5K. I am afraid of getting stung again, but do not stop my outdoor activities.

Jamie Williams said...

This is such a relief to find this! i was stung 2 days ago on my palm below my 4th finger while picking up a chair from outside. It actaully really hurt and the stinger was out within 30 seconds (i hope thats ok) it went red and puffy and started to swell i thought this was normal and just got over it, although it still hurts now. Last night i started to feel really sick in the stomach, natrally i though i had a tummy bug or something but its now one day later and still feel horrible and sick (no other sypmtoms) and i havent vomited. I hope this is serum sickness, but can someone please comfirm this?? thanks :)

Jamie Williams said...

This is such a relief to find this! i was stung 2 days ago on my palm below my 4th finger while picking up a chair from outside. It actaully really hurt and the stinger was out within 30 seconds (i hope thats ok) it went red and puffy and started to swell i thought this was normal and just got over it, although it still hurts now. Last night i started to feel really sick in the stomach, natrally i though i had a tummy bug or something but its now one day later and still feel horrible and sick (no other sypmtoms) and i havent vomited. I hope this is serum sickness, but can someone please comfirm this?? thanks :)

Eleisha K Christensen Young said...

My 3 year old was stung 12 times by yellow jackets....she had bites on her lips, eye, shoulder, and legs! she did have swelling in her face and legs, but by the next day she was fine. then three days later she broke into a rash all over her legs...she was itching it like crazy....had no idea where it came from! Gave her Benadryl and it went away....but we are on day 3 of this rash coming and going all over her body, mainly on her legs. and on day 2 she had a fever of 100.8, which went away with Ibprofen.....really glad that I found this! now I am wondering if I should be worried about a reaction if she is ever stung again :/ hope this helps with others, as I have been one concerned Momma!

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