Treating bee stings is usually a simple first aid task that can be managed at home, because stings are usually nothing more than a minor, short-lived, if admittedly, uncomfortable experience.
Firstly, if you are concerned, for example, due to severe reactions, or because the sting is in a sensitive area, always seek medical attention. There is further in-depth information on my page about allergic reactions to bee stings and advice about what to do.
If your child may have been stung, or your dog, see the information below about what to do in these situations.
But let’s take a quick look at bee stings in general, in which case, simple first aid at home should be sufficient.
A bee sting may hurt and it's common for a bee sting to itch for a while. If a child has been stung, it may be a good idea to ensure the nails are cut short to avoid too much scratching, blood and then infection. To ease the itching, try ice and/or calamine lotion if this is suitable for you.
If a severe reaction develops or symptoms do not clear or improve, seek assistance from a medical professional.
Mostly, they are painful but not dangerous.
Follow these simple steps for treating bee stings:
- If you are stung by a honey bee, part of the sting will remain in the skin. If this is the case, immediately seek to scrape this away with a clean blunt instrument, or wipe it away with the flat of the hand. It is best to remove the sting quickly, as it will continue to pump bee venom into the sting.
- An ice cube placed over the sting should help reduce the pain.
- Calamine lotion could be applied if suitable.
- Aspirin may also be useful for adults (600mg) if you are able to take this medication, however, in the UK, children under 12 should not receive aspirin according to regulation. Paracetamol may be an acceptable alternative – ask your pharmacist for advice, and consult the manufacturer's dosage instructions for medicines.
- More serious sting reactions could include nausea, vomiting, palpitations, faintness, and abdominal pains. Seek medical advice immediately. In rare cases, anaphylactic shock may occur – see below.
There is some debate about the effects of antihistamines when applied to the skin. Some sources propose that repeated use could cause severe skin sensitivity and rash in some individuals, that would be worse than the sting itself.
Others propose that taking an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or a nonsedating one such as loratadine (Claritin) could help.
If in doubt, consult a relevant health care professional.
In very rare cases, anaphylaxis may occur (or anaphylactic shock). In such cases, a person may experience an extreme reaction to a sting that could be serious.
Common initial symptoms of anaphylaxis include nausea, vomiting, chest wheeze, confusion, falling blood pressure and unconsciousness. Note, the properties of hornet, bee and wasp stings differ.
This means that some-one who is sensitive to a hornet sting may or may not have a severe allergic reaction to a wasp or bee sting. Similarly, a bee sting may not result in the same reaction as a wasp sting.
See my page about dogs and bee stings for further information.
If you kill wasps you may only attract more
Treating bee stings with home remedies
If you believe your reaction to a sting is not serious, you may wish to try a natural bee sting treatment, or a home remedy.
Why not take a look at these bee sting facts or if you have a fear of bees, see this page about apiphobia.
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