How Long Do Bee Stings Hurt For?
Bee stings are a part of summertime. Although not everyone experiences them, they are on everyone’s mind, especially parents. Children love playing outside during a warm summer’s day, but here they share the grass and flowers with the bees.
Bees usually sting to defend themselves or their nest and their stings can lead to severe reactions. This is why it’s good to be aware of how long bee stings are likely to hurt and when it’s a cause for concern.
How Long Will a Bee Sting Hurt?
Bee stings are painful, there’s no doubting that. This does, of course, depend on the individual’s pain tolerance, but most people will tell you that it hurts. Because everyone is different, there’s not a precise answer, but we can give you a general idea.
For most people who are stung, the pain eases within an hour or two. During this time, the area will likely feel sore and tender; perhaps it will feel like it’s burning. If the bee injected venom into your skin, it may cause the area to swell.
Stings in some parts of the body are also more painful than others. Swelling can lead to further tenderness in the affected area. The pain, however, should gradually decrease.
Why Bee Stings Hurt
There are three main components of bee venom that lead to pain. These are melittin, A-Hyaluronidase, and phospholipase-A.
Melittin is an anti-inflammatory peptide that’s quite powerful. What it does is bind your red blood cells, triggering a release of hemoglobin into your blood plasma.
A-Hyaluronidase is an enzyme working to break down the cell components to allow the toxins to spread.
Phospholipase-A is another enzyme working to break down the cell components. It is, however, believed that this enzyme is the actual cause of pain after the sting.
You should also keep in mind that venoms aren’t identical across all bee species. Honeybees and bumblebees do still carry many identical allergens which cause the same reactions.
What Factors Can Prolong the Pain?
Because honeybees have barbed stingers, it means that the stinger becomes stuck in the skin. The stinging bee will fly away as soon as you swat at it, leaving behind its stinger and abdomen. Therefore, as the honeybee flies away, it will die. Inside the abdomen are muscular valves which continue to contract, injecting the venom.
If you don’t remove the stinger, it will continue to pump for several minutes, even with the bee gone. The barbed stinger is drilling into your skin, pumping more venom as time goes by. More venom means more swelling and pain, which is why you should remove it as fast as possible.
Bumblebees have smooth stingers; so, although they also inject venom, their stings are usually over quickly. Most will say that a bumblebee sting is far less painful, but they can sting multiple times, thus causing more pain.
Bumblebees are, fortunately, not known for being aggressive. They will generally only sting if you disturb their nest or step on them while they’re foraging.
Honeybees, on the other hand, can be more territorial and aggressive, especially Africanized honeybees, or killer bees. These have a fast response to intruders and can be further agitated by sudden movement.
How to Treat a Bee Sting
The first thing you should do is locate the stinger. Keep in mind that it’s generally only honeybees that leave a stinger behind. It’s rare that other bees dislodge theirs in the process. The stinger looks like a black dot in the middle of the area that has been stung.
It’s essential that the stinger is removed as quickly as possible, to limit the amount of venom injected. The best method is to scrape the stinger off using your fingernail, a credit card, or a piece of gauze. Pressing on the stinger or pulling it out with tweezers can inject more venom, however, this is preferable to leaving it in place.
Grab a cotton ball and dip it in cold water and bathe the area. This should relieve some of the pain. If it doesn’t help, gently rub it with an ice cube or use a cold pack.
Don’t leave anything cold on the skin for too long, though. Do it in intervals, no longer than 20 minutes—less for children. If it’s still painful, you can take pain medication—if it’s your child, contact your pediatrician before giving any pain reliever.
Look out for excessive swelling, itching, or hives in other places of the body. If the swelling spreads, it could be an indication of a severe reaction. In these cases, you should seek medical advice.
If anyone that’s been stung begins to experience difficulty breathing, nausea or vomiting, or huge swellings, head for the emergency room. This could be an indicator of a severe allergic reaction.
Bee stings generally only hurt for a few hours, but the area will continue to be swollen, red, and tender. It’s important that you remove the stinger as quickly as possible. To relieve the pain, a cold pack, ice cube or cotton ball with water may help.
Keep the area clean and you should be fine after a short time. However, prolonged pain, further swelling or more serious symptoms require immediate medical attention.