Posts Tagged ‘sting’

17 Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body


I was recently contacted by a US based company who had read some of the blog where I talk about our experience of using BVT to ask me if I would share their infographic detailing the effects of anaphylaxis on the body.  This is an interactive chart allowing the reader to pick the side effect they want to learn more about.

17 Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body

The Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body

The Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body

The Effects of Anaphylaxis on the Body

You may have a food intolerance or a minor allergic reaction to something you come into contact with, but that pales in comparison to anaphylaxis. Almost any substance can be an allergen, including foods and insect bites or stings. The cause can’t always be pinpointed. The first time you’re exposed to the substance, your immune system learns to recognize the foreign invader. In anaphylaxis, when you’re exposed again, your immune system has an exaggerated response that affects the whole body and may put your life in danger. Symptoms may begin within seconds and they can progress swiftly.

The first line of treatment is usually adrenaline, because it can turn things around quickly. Once you’ve experienced anaphylaxis, you’re always at risk, so you should take great caution to avoid the triggering substance. Your doctor will probably prescribe adrenaline in the form of a prefilled autoinjector that you can carry with you. If you need to use the autoinjector pen, you can inject yourself or have someone else do it for you. You should always seek medical help after using adrenaline. Symptoms sometimes return, but usually within a 72-hour period.

Immune System

Your immune system fights antigens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It learns to recognize these harmful substances and works to neutralize them. Once your immune system has come into contact with an antigen, it stores the information for future use. When it’s doing its job, you don’t get sick.

Sometimes, when you come into contact with that antigen again, your immune system overreacts, blowing the event out of proportion. Far too much histamine and other inflammatory chemicals are quickly released into your system. This causes a wide variety of problems that can have devastating results.

Adrenaline is a hormone produced naturally by your body. In anaphylaxis, an extra dose can help increase blood flow throughout your body and help reverse the immune system’s aggressive response.

Respiratory System

Inflammation in the respiratory system can cause the bronchial tissues to swell. Symptoms include shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. It can also cause fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and cough. You may make high-pitched or wheezing sounds when you breathe. A feeling of tightening in the chest and chest pain are common. Respiratory distress is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate medical attention. Untreated, it can lead to respiratory arrest. Patients with asthma are at particular risk.

Skin (Integumentary System)

One of the more obvious signs of anaphylaxis can be seen on the skin. It may start out as itchiness and redness, or just a mild warming of the skin. It can progress to welts, or hives that hurt when you touch them. If your respiratory system is in trouble, skin may turn blue from lack of oxygen. Pale skin means you’re going into shock.

Circulatory System

In anaphylaxis, small blood vessels (capillaries) begin to leak blood into your tissues. This can cause a sudden and dramatic drop in blood pressure. Other symptoms include rapid or weak pulse and heart palpitations. When major organs don’t get the blood and oxygen they need to perform, your body goes into anaphylactic shock. This is a life-threatening medical emergency. Untreated, you are at great risk of damage to internal organs or cardiac arrest.

Digestive System

Even if your reaction is usually mild, food allergies put you at increased risk of developing anaphylaxis. Digestive system symptoms include bloating, cramps, and abdominal pain. You may also have nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Central Nervous System

Even before the first physical symptoms occur, some people have a weird feeling – a sense that something bad is about to happen. Others describe a metallic taste in their mouth. Inflammation in the central nervous system can make you lightheaded or dizzy. Some people get a headache. There may be swelling of the eyes. The lips and tongue can swell enough to make it hard to talk. If the throat swells, it can block your airway. Anaphylaxis can cause mental confusion, anxiety, and weakness. Other symptoms include slurred speech, hoarse voice, and difficulty talking. As your body goes into shock, loss of consciousness occurs.

You can see the overview of the report and access the interactive graphics here

Bee venom must always be treated with the utmost respect, even if you are a seasoned keeper who has been stung on multiple occasions. Always make sure that you let someone else know that you are going to visit your bees and where they are, the time you expect to return, carry a mobile phone and any medication that you may require. If in any doubt following a sting alert the emergency services and wait for collection, the last thing they want is you causing a RTA when you pass out behind the wheel on the way to hospital!

I hope to keep adding to this blog as and when time allows in 2014, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings your continuing comments and questions – this makes it all worth while for me as the writer….

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

Bee Venom Therapy in action – does it really cure the pain?


Following on from my previous post, titled Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) …. is it a sting too far?, I now want to write a little about the experiences that my wife and I had last year using bee venom to treat her rheumatoid arthritis (RA), if you have just stumbled across this post then I would strongly recommend that you read my previous article to gain some background and understanding of what BVT is and why we are doing this!

Having read Charles Mraz’s book we felt quite confident with the actual direct application of  venom at the target sites. We informally discussed the process that we were about to undertake with our GP so that he was aware, and although western medicine doesn’t really prescribe this sort of treatment I think he was both intrigued and entertained at the same time, however he was not dismissive having heard anecdotal stories of similar treatments in the past and has maintained an interest in the results since.

Before the main treatments began we borrowed an epipen (just in case of an emergency!), we then carried out a single ‘test sting’ on the hand to make sure that my wife didn’t have an allergy to bee venom, even though she had previously been stung we needed to make sure that an allergy hadn’t subsequently developed in the intervening years. This also gave a taster or reminder of the pain that would be experienced in the coming weeks and an opportunity for her to change her mind. This whole treatment had to be very patient led, so I did not push the sessions and let my wife decide where she felt she wanted the stings to be applied. Luckily as a chiropractor who also does dry needling she has a very good understanding of the bodies mechanisms and where the trigger points or target areas should be.

Bees in a jar

Bees waiting their 'turn to help'

The bees are collected into a jar during the normal hive checks and this also set the frequency that the BVT sessions took place, purely through convenience as my bees are located in an ‘out apiary’ (so not kept at home) and we didn’t want to disturb the colonies more than we already do (also bees don’t ‘store’ that well once bottled). The collection jar is just an empty  jar with air holes drilled in the lid and some foliage for supporting the bees as they struggle to grip on the glass sides. If they were being left overnight a little honey was also added although this is best avoided as even the bees get sticky.

When the bees are to be ‘used’ they are plucked from the jar using ‘reverse’ tweezers, sometimes called jewellery makers tweezers, that close shut when the finger pressure is released rather than open as in normal tweezers, this allowed me to clamp the bees ready for application of the sting.

Bee in 'reverse tweezers'

Bee held in 'reverse tweezers'

I can’t say that my wife really relished the thought of being stung numerous times, and although she had seen the minor effect it had on me during my previous seasons as a beekeeper she had also seen the slightly more entertaining and dramatic effect of the histamine production when I was stung on my top lip. With the ‘test sting’ being a resounding success we decided to push on with the BVT.

The bees were collected and stings applied on average every 10 days or so, we applied between 10 – 12 stings at each session. Normally this would involve 2 in each foot or on the ankles, 2 on each of the knees and two on each hand, anywhere on the knuckles but we varied this routine depending if one area was  particularly painful with the arthritis  prior to that session. The stings were left in place for anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes so that  full venom dose was received. When the stingers are removed it is important not to use an alcohol wipe on the sting site as this neutralises the effect of the venom. Unfortunately the bee dies after they have used their sting and they also release a pheromone so the dying bees were removed from the immediate area as the BVT sessions took place outdoors and we didn’t want attract any extra non-participants into the area.  A few bees flying around your head when you are not behind a veil can be very off-putting!

Stings applied to joints on both hands

Stings applied to the knuckle joints on both hands

By the end of the 2011 season my wife had been stung 129 times, so you must now be thinking that she is either a very brave or possibly a slightly mad women, but if you had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 35, if it was in your body and your joints, and you were told that the only answer that modern medicine had to offer was to spend the rest of your life taking a cocktail of anti-inflammatory and other drugs (with pretty unappealing side effects in their own right) then maybe you to would be willing to take the chance that an alternative cure could be found.

Well of course I know that that my wife is an intelligent, level-headed women and as I have previously stated we didn’t start this whole process without a lot of thought, research and planning, I guess it was just a case of weighing up the options available to us and the western medicine route felt a bit like giving up hope.

Sting swelling

Localised swelling shortly after applying the sting

The stings did exactly what it said on the (yellow and black) packet. They caused localised pain for a short period, followed by a slight redness and swelling at the sting site. Then as histamine is produced by the body the swelling spreads across a larger area of the body, often causing  large red swollen areas that last for several days.As the season progressed Emma definitely developed a tolerance to the venom, in the same way that beekeepers often do, and the effects of the venom became less visibly evident.  I think that the most discomfort was caused, not by the initial pain of the sting as one may have thought, but rather by the itching over the next few hours and sometimes days, particularly during the hotter days of the summer.

So was the BVT effective? 

When my wife was first diagnosed with the RA in 2010 she attended an appointment with an NHS rheumatologist. She had blood samples and x-rays taken to assess her current condition and the extent of any existing joint damage.

The early signs are that the RA is in remission but more importantly than that, having just had the autumn and winter period so dreaded by many RA sufferers as their symptoms worsen during this period my wife has not complained of, nor suffered from painfully swollen joints as she  had done during the previous year. So it looks like the BVT has gone some way into reducing both the swelling and pain, the thing we need to find out now is if it prevents damage to the joints or even reverses the process.

The subsequent visits to the rheumatologist has involved further x-rays and tests and although they feel that, against the odds, that Emma is definitely showing signs of remission they do not have much interest in the BVT or accept that it is a potential contributing factor. We will have to now wait until further tests are carried out in future months to see how the BVT is really working, but all the early signs are positive.

I should point out that during the period that the stings were applied my wife was also undergoing other treatments such as acupuncture and a cleansing diet (to me this was harsher than the stings!) so any remission may be attributable to a combination of these treatments. When we reached the end of the beekeeping season in 2011 my wife became concerned that with the bees being ‘away’ and no longer being stung that the symptoms would become worse again and she became quite worried about not being stung, a complete reverse of a few months earlier!

Over the last few weeks my wife has also started to take ‘honeygar’, a combination of honey, cider vinegar and a little water, as a medicine. This come highly recommended in Margaret Hills book ‘Curing arthritis the drug free way’ as well as having more modern day champions such as Ranulph Fiennes, who swears by it for his own arthritis control.

So what is the plan for the future?

As the new beekeeping season is about to begin in 2012, and the girls are out flying again, we will also be starting the next set of BVT sessions. This is my wife’s choice so it shows that she must feel that there was a strong enough benefit from last years BVT to subject herself to the pain and swelling again and hopefully we will continue to see the RA in remission. In the testimonials that I have read people are sometimes ‘cured’ after just a few treatments and others have a longer journey. I guess it is part dependant on the level of RA being treated in the  patient as well as other factors such as the level that their auto-immune system is functioning at.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this article, if you have any experience of BVT, either personally or anecdotal, or would like to make a comment I would love to hear from you. It is still early days for us but sharing this experience is important and maybe it can also be of help to others.

Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) …. is it a sting too far?


This is my first post about Bee Venom Therapy (BVT) and is really just an introduction to my experiences over the last two years .. so I guess we had better start at the beginning and explain what BVT actually is, then why I have been exploring its potential and finally I would like to share a little of what I have been doing with it and the results so far. This really is a work in progress and will probably extend over several posts, maybe even several years.

So what is Bee Venom Therapy (BVT)? Well you can Google it and you will find lots of interesting answers, or even better you can type it into YouTube and watch the bees in action!

Bee Venom Therapy

Bee Venom Therapy

BVT, or sometimes just referred to as Apitherapy, is the use of bee venom to treat medical conditions. It has been used since ancient times to treat a whole host of conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism, diabetes, muscular pain, gout, skin conditions and more recently it is being used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is likely that BVT was the original acupuncture, delivering raw bee venom to the point of treatment.

It is a widely established practice in Asia with many specialist BVT clinics and it was actually legalised in China in 2007 despite having been used there for centuries!

Bee venom is a rich source of enzymes, peptides and biogenic amines. There are at least 18 active components in the venom which have some pharmaceutical properties. Bee venom also contains melittin, a peptide made up of amino acids that functions as an anti-inflammatory. Bee venom therapy functions by cutting down inflammation, improving your blood circulation and bolstering your immune system and additionally contributing to increased cortisol production.

The live bees are stimulated to inject the venom directly into to the affected area, trigger points or acupuncture points and after an initial test to make sure that the patient does not have an allergy to bee venom the number, frequency and location of stings is very dependant on the illness being treated.

So if you are still with me and haven’t moved onto a search for witch doctors or yoghurt weavers you may be thinking ‘well that’s all fine, there are a lot of questionable alternative therapies out there but why am I harking on about it now?’

I took up beekeeping in 2009 due to the publicity surrounding colony collapse disorder and global honey bee decline – if the reports are to be believed then there will be real issues for future generations regarding food security with an expanding global population.

My wife was then diagnosed with early symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)  in 2010  and  was experiencing a lot of pain and discomfort in certain joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease where your immune system, which usually fights infection, instead attacks the cells that line your joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful. Over time, this may damage the joint, the cartilage and surrounding bone.

There were days when she struggled to walk up and down the stairs and found the buttons on the children’s clothing nearly impossible. She was referred to the NHS rheumatologist by the GP  but she also sought the advice of a nutritionist, who recommended a strict detox diet, and also underwent a course of acupuncture.

I had heard of bee venom being used to treat the symptoms of RA and started doing some research on the internet, always treating claims of miracle cures with a pinch of salt. I talked with my wife about the possibilities and watched the terror in her face at the thought of being stung multiple times and we decided to trial introducing ‘Manuka honey with bee venom’ into her diet to start with.

Bees don't get arthritis

Bees don't get arthritis

My reading also lead me to purchase two books that were occasionally mentioned, firstly ‘Bees don’t get arthritis – The healing powers of bee stings, honey, pollen and propolis’ by Fred Malone and then later ‘Health and the honeybee’ by Charles Mraz.  Both books were excellent in giving guidance on how to actually start the BVT and I had a willing victim. I also read articles by Bodog Beck who was responsible for writing ‘The bible of bee venom therapy’.

Health and the Honey Bee

Health and the Honey Bee

BVT is not something that you enter into without a lot of care, thought and consideration but the alternative is a lifetime of taking synthetic steroids with a whole host of nasty side effects and certainly not what you want to hear when you are only 36….

We decided to start a course of treatment using the bees from early 2011 once the regular hive inspections were taking place and there was a good flow of pollen into the hives so the venom would be potent. This will be the subject of my next post.

A sting in the face – a photo report just for your entertainment


Many people have a deep seated fear of insect stings, whether it is from a bee or a wasp, they suspect deep pain followed by a near death experience, or worse, and I guess for a very small group people this could be a reality. However there are only about 4 anaphylactic related deaths in the UK each year so it really is very unlikely to be you!

Like most bee keepers I expect to get stung occasionally, and I do, mainly in the hands or lower arms and I get very little pain, the sting itself  is removed reasonably quickly and I do not tend to have much of a reaction at all, not even the normal swelling, redness or itching that most people experience.

Normal bee sting reaction as modelled by my wife

However recently following an apiary meeting with the Kent Beekeepers Association, I was enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the apiary when a bee decided to smack me one of the upper lip. Due to the location of the sting and not being able to see beyond my nose and through my stubble it took about 2 minutes to remove the stinger so I got a reasonable amount of venom injected which led to my transformation into the elephant man.

I have added a few pictures below to give some idea of the level of reaction you get in the face, being a far more sensitive area of the body to be stung and the result of the histamine being produced by the bodies own immune system  to counter the small amount of venom injected! Click on the photos to open and enlarge ….. and enjoy

45 minutes to 16 hours of reaction after being stung in the face

The photos show that the immediate response to the venom was for my upper lip to ballon, and keep going, and going. The lip then started to deflate but the reaction moved up my face with swelling in my right cheek and under both of my eyes.

26 hours to 72 hours after being stung!

The reaction to the sting was still quite evident in my face, even after three days. There was no pain or itchiness with this, on the second day my gums felt numb as if I had been to the dentist but this soon passed over and I soon forgot about the way I was looking although I was reminded on a regular basis by everyone that I met!