Beekeepers & Arthritis

If you ever do any research into apitherapy, you’ll eventually run across the claim that beekeepers don’t get arthritis and that it’s due to being stung all the time.

First, let me disabuse you of this myth: it just ain’t so! I’ve been keeping bees since 2008 and have been stung more times than I care to count, including my hands, and I’m developing arthritis.

“But Gord,” I hear you say. “You’re only 48! Surely you’re not old enough to get arthritis!” Sadly, age has nothing to do with it and don’t call me Shirley. 😉

Genetics have doomed me to a future of gnarled hands and aching fingers. My father had twisted, arthritic, fingers and so did his mother and grandmother. If only bee venom were the cure. I’d gladly go rattle my hands around in a hive on a regular basis!

Now, where was I going with this? They say the memory is the second thing to go, but I can’t remember the first. lol

RIGHT! There’s actually something called “Beekeeper’s Arthritis.” It’s not really arthritis, but a bacterial infection that mimics the symptoms of arthritis.

The root cause is the beekeeper’s gloves:

If an apiarist’s gloves do not allow the hands to adequately perspire, cutaneous hyperhidrosis can occur. Overgrowing of Pseudomonas aeruginosa is thus favored in a manner similar to spread from the athletic shoe via a puncture wound in children with foot osteochondritis. A bee sting, which acts as a puncturing device, can carry P. aeruginosa from the skin surface into the joint.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a common bacteria that thrives in moist environments. Sweaty leather gloves, for instance. So, you have sweaty hands covered in this bacteria and when they get stung, the stinger carries a bit of bacteria into the wound with it, causing a painful infection.

I found this in an article published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 34, Issue 12, 15 June 2002. The poor guy had to take ciprofloxacin (the same antibiotic used to treat anthrax) twice a day for a month!

Anyway, it’s kind of a fascinating case that makes me quite happy to only wear gloves when absolutely necessary. I don’t like ’em because I have a much better feel for things with bare hands. Healthier hands. 😀

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