Spending time in your garden or a park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Of course, you may be subject to a bee sting – a common but painful experience! Treating a bee sting quickly can help alleviate the discomfort. Remove the stinger right away, watch out for signs of an allergic reaction, and then try home remedies or over-the-counter medication to improve the pain and swelling.
EditTaking Immediate Steps
- Remove the stinger as quickly as possible. As soon as you get stung, get the stinger out of your skin. This is the most important thing you can do! Some people suggest that scraping the stinger out with a credit card is better than pinching it out, but this is more likely to slow down the removal. Some scientists don’t think this is even true, and that removing the stinger as quickly as possible is the best thing you can do.
- Get it out with your fingernails, if possible. Otherwise grab tweezers or whatever else you have handy.
- Wash the area with soap and cold water. The cold water will be soothing and the soap can help wash away any residual dirt or venom. Lather up well and rinse the area thoroughly.
- Watch out for symptoms of an allergic reaction. Even if you’ve been stung by a bee before without any problem, be on the alert for signs that you’re having an allergic reaction. Allergies can develop or worsen over time. Severe reactions (anaphylaxis) can by life-threatening. Watch out for any of the following signs of anaphylaxis:
- Call emergency services if you’re having an allergic reaction. If any of the above symptoms are present, call for emergency help right away. While you’re waiting for help to arrive (or on your way to the hospital), take Benadryl or another antihistamine. If you have an EpiPen, use it.
- After you’ve been treated, see your doctor for a prescription for an EpiPen – a shot of epinephrine that you keep on hand in case of another reaction.
EditTrying Home Remedies
- Apply cold to the area. Run the sting under cold water, or place ice or an ice pack on the area. Wrap the ice in a towel first instead of putting it directly on your skin. Keep this on for 20 minutes.
- Reapply the ice later if the area gets sore again.
- Elevate your arm or leg. If you were stung on the arm or leg, elevate it. Prop your foot up on pillows to be above the level of your heart. Rest your arm on something above your heart. This can improve pain and swelling.
- Make a baking soda paste. Mix baking soda with water, apply the paste, and let it dry. This may pull out the venom if applied quickly and help relieve pain and swelling. Put a tablespoon of baking soda in a bowl and add enough water to turn it into a thick paste.
- You can also try making a paste out of baking soda, vinegar, and meat tenderizer and applying it to the sting. Add enough vinegar to a tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste, and add in a pinch of meat tenderizer.
- Apply honey to the sting. Dab some honey onto the sting with your fingers or a cotton ball. Honey has traditionally been used for its antiseptic qualities. Use honey that is as pure as possible, preferably 100% honey without preservatives, for the best effect.
- Put toothpaste on the sting. Apply a dab of toothpaste to the sore area. It may feel like tingling, which can improve the itchiness of the sting. Apply it as often as you want to.
- Natural toothpaste may work better than regular toothpaste, but give either a try.
- Dab on apple cider vinegar. Wet a cotton ball with apple cider vinegar and hold it against the sting. It may burn momentarily, but then may provide some pain relief.
- Take over-the-counter pain medicine. Alleviate pain with OTC pain medicine from your local pharmacy or drug store, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). Ask your doctor or pharmacist which is the best medicine for you if you have any medical issues, especially if you have liver or kidney problems. Take the medicine as indicated on the bottle or by your doctor.
- Apply hydrocortisone cream. Apply hydrocortisone cream or other corticosteroid cream to the red, swollen area. This can decrease the pain and inflammation in the area. Use it as directed on the label.
- Reapply it after four hours if you need to.
- Dab on calamine lotion. Calamine lotion can help bee stings as much as it helps poison ivy rashes. Dab some onto your sting with a cotton ball. Use it as indicated on the label. Calamine lotion with analgesic (e.g. Caladryl), may be especially effective.
- Reapply it after four hours if you need to.
- Take antihistamine pills if your sting is itchy. Take oral antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or chlorphenamine (Chlor-Trimeton). Use it as directed on the label or by your doctor or pharmacist. This can help relieve itching.
- Antihistamine pills might make you very drowsy. Be sure you know how they affect you before taking them when driving or going to work.
- Your sting may be itchy, but DON’T scratch it. This will make the itching and swelling worse and will increase the chance you’ll get an infection.
- Put antibiotic ointment on the sting after you clean off your home remedy or medicated lotion. This will help to prevent infection.
- Keep any blisters you get intact; don’t pop them. Popping blisters can cause infection.
- You may become allergic to bee stings even if you have not had reactions to stings in the past. It’s also possible to be allergic to one kind of sting and not others; for instance, to be allergic to honey bees but not wasps. Previous stings without incident does not mean you will never have an anaphylactic reaction, so keep an eye out any time you get stung.
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