Why Does Bee Sting Cause Pain and Irritation?

When a bee stings, it injects a venomous fluid into the skin. This venom contains various compounds that trigger pain, irritation, and other reactions in the body. The primary components of bee venom responsible for the pain and irritation are:

  • Melittin: This is the main component of bee venom and is responsible for the immediate pain and burning sensation after a bee sting. Melittin activates pain receptors in the skin, leading to the sharp and intense pain that is often felt at the site of the sting.
  • Histamine: Bee venom contains histamine, a chemical that is released during allergic reactions. Histamine causes blood vessels to dilate (widen), leading to redness, swelling, and itching at the sting site. This is the body’s natural response to the presence of a foreign substance.
  • Phospholipase A2: This enzyme in bee venom can break down cell membranes and contribute to the release of other inflammatory compounds. It can intensify the pain and contribute to the swelling and redness.
  • Serotonin and Other Peptides: These compounds are also present in bee venom and can contribute to the pain and inflammation at the sting site.

When a bee stings, these components of the venom work together to trigger an immediate inflammatory response. This response is the body’s attempt to neutralize any potential threat and begin the healing process. For most people, the pain, swelling, and redness from a bee sting are temporary and subside within a few hours to a couple of days.

However, in some cases, individuals may have an allergic reaction to bee stings. This allergic reaction can cause more severe symptoms, including hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, and in extreme cases, anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. People who know they are allergic to bee stings often carry epinephrine (adrenaline) injectors to counteract severe allergic reactions.