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Why Do Bee Stings Get Worse Each Time?

Why Do Bee Stings Get Worse Each Time?

If you were stung by a bee today (or ever), we’re sorry. We know it hurts and probably stays sore for a little while, but hopefully, the pain subsides fairly quickly. 

You may have noticed, however, that this sting hurts worse than the last time. You might think you’re crazy, but we are here to tell you that may not be the case. There are instances where bee stings can gradually get more painful, and we are here to give you all the details you’ll need. 

Bee stings can hurt; let us help you make it a little easier to deal with. 

What Happens When a Bee Stings You

There are a few different reactions that can happen to you depending on your level of sensitivity to bee stings.

These are the types of reactions in order of severity:

Mild Reactions

Generally, typical or normal reactions you can expect after a bee sting include pain at the sting site, itching, or even a burning sensation. These will last for up to three days in some cases but could also subside after just a few hours. 

Minor swelling around the sting can also occur, but all of these symptoms should only cause any pain or discomfort in a three-centimeter maximum diameter around the wound. 

Moderate Reactions

A localized but larger reaction will include the same symptoms but in a diameter that exceeds ten centimeters. While still considered a normal or typical reaction, you can expect the symptoms to grow over the course of a few hours and can last up to three days. 

For these types of reactions, you can take OTC medications to help with pain and discomfort. If you are stung close to the mouth or throat, you may want to watch and monitor symptoms to ensure nothing more severe happens. 

Hypersensitivity

Hypersensitivity is a form of an allergic reaction but doesn’t include anything resembling anaphylaxis. These types of reactions include two forms of a systemic response

The first one is urticaria, which includes hives, swelling of the upper layer of skin, and intense itching sensations. The second is angioedema, which includes hives, intense itching, and swelling of the lower layers of skin. 

Severe Allergic Reactions

More severe allergic reactions include respiratory issues and anaphylactic complications. This means that along with the threat of hives and swelling, your body is also at risk of issues like high blood pressure, wheezing, throat closure, and loss of consciousness.

Why Do Bee Stings Get Worse?

So you’ve been stung a few times and realize that your symptoms get more complicated each time. This happens when you’re allergic or have hypersensitivity to bee venom. 

If this is the case, you will notice more pain, a longer timeline of symptoms, and other complications the more times you’re stung. 

Steps To Take After You’re Stung

Part of reducing your symptoms after being stung by a bee includes your response time to getting stung. A few steps to take after being stung by a bee help you feel better faster. 

Remove the Stinger Properly

So the first thing to do is remove the stinger, but you need to do so correctly. This means that you’ll need to scrape away the stinger stuck in your skin; scraping it with a credit card is a fan favorite technique. 

Never pinch the stinger and pull it out with tweezers. These actions could release more bee venom into your system. 

Get Aid if Needed

Second, you’ll want to seek out relief from the symptoms you’re experiencing. This could be as simple as icing the site of the sting to reduce swelling or include further measures like taking a pain reliever. 

For those with severe allergic reactions, an OTC allergy medicine might help, and in the most extreme cases, you will need to keep an epinephrine auto-injector or EpiPen on hand. These emergency treatments are only purchased through a prescription by a doctor. 

Monitor Symptoms

If you start to feel relief, great. But you’ll want to monitor your symptoms if they linger, even with help. Ensure that your throat isn’t scratchy or you’re not developing hives or feeling more intense swelling than what is considered normal. 

If Necessary, Consult a Physician

If you start to experience unbearable symptoms, you’ll need to consult a doctor right away. If this is the first time you’ve been stung, you might not know if you have an insect sting allergy. Depending on your sting reaction, your doctor may want to do some allergy testing. This could include a scratch skin test or a blood test. 

Intensities that cannot be controlled are signs of a severe allergy and will require medical attention and special care in the future, so don’t wait on this issue if you’re concerned. If you have difficulty breathing or are going into anaphylactic shock, you might have a severe venom allergy. This is a life-threatening emergency and demands immediate medical treatment.

Why Do Bees Sting?

If you’ve ever wondered why bees sting, you’re not alone. There is one main reason bees will sting, and knowing about it can help you avoid triggering an attack from your local hive. 

Protection

The first reason bees will sting is due to protection. Bees would rather fly away than sting, but if they are close to their hive or you are close to their queen, bees will do whatever they can to keep her safe.

Animals like badgers and skunks prey on bees, so if they are spotted near a hive, bees will do everything in their power to protect their hive. However, if you stumble across such a situation without realizing it, you may fall victim to a bee as well. 

Why Do Bees Sting Hurt?

Bee stings hurt due to the toxins that bees produce and release via their stingers. There are three toxic effects of bee stings and three main compositional factors within those toxins that cause pain.

Let’s discuss these next:

Three Toxic Effects

The three toxic effects of bee stingers are:

  • Neurotoxic: causes paralysis of the central nervous system
  • Hemorrhagic: causes the blood in capillaries to move faster
  • Hemolytic: causes the destruction of red blood cells 

Pain Components

The three compositional factors of bee venom that lead to pain are:

  • Melittin: binds to red blood cells and causes the release of hemoglobin into the plasma. 
  • A-Hyaluronidase: an enzyme that breaks down cells and allows venom to spread throughout the body
  • Phospholipase-A: thought to be the main reason you feel pain after a bee sting. This enzyme causes cells in the body to break down. 

How To Prevent Stings

Bees sting mainly to protect themselves. While other stinging insects may do so in a predatory manner, certain types of bees that sting will die after doing so. Because of this, they, of course, only sting when they are in dire need of protecting their hive or themselves. 

Be mindful of where you step or how you swat away bees when they fly around your head. If they feel threatened by your movements, they will sting you without hesitation. A bee that has landed on the ground will sting if you step on it, so always wear shoes to keep your feet sting-free. 

Be especially careful when hiking not to disturb or run up to hives. 

If You Are Attacked by Multiple Bees 

The most common place to be attacked by multiple bees will be around their hives. You are most likely to come across a hive in the wilderness, so it is essential to be especially careful on hikes or while enjoying outdoor activities

Look out for hives while hiking or playing outside, and tell little ones to do the same. You’ll hear the buzzing noise pretty distinctly with so many bees around so keep clear of this sound. 

Be sure not to use scented lotions or wear perfumes during outdoor events; they will attract more attention. Also, keep vibrations and noises to a minimum when there is a colony of bees close, as those noises could feel like a threat to the colony. 

Which Bees Sting?

A few bees sting, while others in the same colony don’t. Here’s the breakdown of the most common bees and who to look out for:

  • Bumble bee: will sting, but the likelihood is low as they want to avoid human interaction at all costs. 
  • Carpenter bee: males are unable to sting, and females are unlikely to do so unless provoked to sting. 
  • Honey bee: workers and the queen can sting, but the threat is low unless near a hive. Due to their benefit to our ecosystem, take extreme care to have hives relocated rather than removed and destroyed. 
  • Wasps: not a bee, but similar and often confused for a bee. Wasps are aggressive, and it doesn’t take much for them to sting.

Is It a Bee or a Wasp Sting?

If you’ve been stung recently but didn’t see the attack, you could need to decipher between a bee or wasp sting. While the sting site might not be a huge clue, only bees leave a stinger behind, while wasps are able to sting over and over again. 

The Bottom Line 

Bees provide a service to our ecosystem and make honey, so we have two good reasons to keep them around.

But this doesn’t mean we need to get stung. With the helpful information provided here, you can keep yourself and your loved ones sting-free and enjoy the great outdoors stress-free! 

 

Sources:

Epinephrine (Adrenaline): What It Is, Function, Deficiency & Side Effects | Cleveland Clinic

Systemic Reaction Throughout the Body | VeryWellMind

Why do bees sting? | The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

When to Worry About Bee & Wasp Stings | Banner Health

Angioedema | NHS

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