Treating Bee Stings
Bee and wasp stings are painful, but what’s the best way to deal with them? Every family seems to have their own secret remedy. Many “cure” options exist, from meat tenderizer to tobacco juice, vinegar to baking soda, and people who swear by them.
In reality, there is no real scientific or medical basis for these home remedies. The vast majority of them are not dangerous, but they are also ineffective. In the event of a bee or wasp sting, individuals and parents do have options. Minimize the pain, redness, swelling, and itching that most people experience after a sting by following the right steps. If an allergic reaction is severe, the right response may mean the difference between life and death.
For the vast majority of people, stings cause nothing more than pain, swelling, and redness in the immediate vicinity of the sting.
An allergic reaction known as “generalized reaction” can occur in very small percentage of people who are stung by insects and have an extremely severe and potentially life-threatening reaction. Anaphylaxis, which can be fatal, can result from stings in people with this allergy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 60 and 70 Americans die each year as a result of allergic reactions to bee stings. Tens of thousands of people have serious but non-fatal reactions to the drug.
If you or a child is stung again, keep an eye out for symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
- Unease, tingling sensations, and dizziness
- Hives and generalized itching
- Lips and tongue swelling
- Breathing problems and wheezing
- Loss of consciousness and collapse
Anyone who experiences any of these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.
If you’ve had an allergic reaction in the past, you’re likely to have one again if you’re stung. It is possible to develop a generalized allergic reaction to a sting even if you’ve never had an allergic reaction before. It’s fortunate that this initial reaction is less likely to be one of the fatal ones.
An epinephrine auto-injector should be readily available to anyone who is aware of their allergy symptoms. Using an auto-injector, you don’t need to know how to “give a shot” because the device injects you when you press it against your skin. One of the most commonly prescribed medications for allergic reactions is epinephrine (adrenaline). As soon as you notice any symptoms of an allergic reaction, immediately reach for the auto-injector.
Having more pain or swelling than expected is not an indicator of an increased risk of a generalized reaction. Neither does getting stung more than once.
Here Are 3 Easy Steps to Treat a Bee Sting
Bee stings are a common emergency department visit for up to 1 million people each year. In most cases, you can treat these symptoms at home by following these simple steps:
- Remove the stinger by using a dull-edged tool.
One major difference separates bee stings from those of wasps. Honeybee stings leave a barbed stinger behind after the bee has been stung (and the honeybee dies). However, wasps can use their smooth stinger multiple times without detaching from the insect, unlike that of a bee. Remove the stinger of a honeybee as soon as possible after a sting. As long as the bee’s venom bag remains intact, it continues to release venom. Stop toxins more quickly by removing it and the stinger as soon as possible.
To remove the stinger, gently scrape the area with a blunt object like a credit card or butter knife. Squeezing the venom bag can worsen symptoms, so avoid using anything sharp to avoid puncturing it.
- Use a cold compress to relieve the pain.
After removing the stinger, use a cool compress to alleviate pain. Antihistamines can reduce itching and swelling when taken orally or applied topically.
- Elevate the stung area
Elevating the area of the sting can also help reduce swelling, depending on where it is located. Often, the degree of swelling that results from a sting is shocking. It is possible for a sting to cause the hand to swell to twice its normal size. Cellulitis, the medical term for an infection characterized by swelling, heat, and tenderness, is another name for this condition. Even in the first few days after a bee sting, it is extremely uncommon for an infection to develop. However, the swelling that is caused by an allergic reaction can take several days to completely go away despite being reduced within a few hours.
How to Prevent a Bee Sting
The simplest method to avoid sting-related issues is to avoid getting stung in the first place. Some things to remember if you or your child are going to be outside with bees or wasps:
- Wearing bright colors, fragrant perfumes, or hair sprays is not recommended.
- Remember that wasps and bees are sociable insects. They will only sting people to safeguard their hive. If you don’t trouble them, they won’t bother you.
- Bees and wasps are slow fliers, and most people can get away from them simply by walking fast.
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