If you have ever been stung by a bee you know it hurts! Thankfully, most stings can be dealt with at home. In fact, you may already have some natural home remedies for bee stings in your kitchen cabinets. They can help relieve some of the symptoms and perhaps avoid the cost of buying commercial products.
Bee Sting Self Care
For those of us who love the great outdoors – it is inevitable that we will cross paths with a stinging insect at some point. First, don’t panic but move away from the area – you may be near a nest.
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While it sure does hurt, a couple of stings are not usually dangerous-unless you are allergic to the bee venom. If you think you may be allergic, never attempt self treatment for stings – visit the nearest emergency center.
It is always a good idea to be able to identify the type of insect that stung you if possible. Wasps vs bees – a person can be allergic to one and not another. However, some people are allergic to both types of venom.
Look at the site of the sting, can you identify a honey bee stinger? If you see a stinger stuck in your skin, you have a honey bee to thank.
Their barbed stinger injects a lot of venom in one event and you may see the attached venom sac too. Honey bees usually die after stinging you so they only get 1 shot.
Wasps (such as Yellow Jackets) have smooth stingers and can sting repeatedly! This is one reason homeowners often create Yellow Jacket traps during mid Summer in an effort to reduce the population.
Symptoms & Normal Reactions to a Bee Sting
Sting reactions vary from one person to another. But, they share a few common points.
You may experience pain for a few minutes or a bit longer. And, sometimes stings hurt worse than other times. Many of my beekeeping friends swear that stings are more painful in late summer than earlier in the year!
Pain for a short time is normal and does not signal a major problem. Swelling with redness (a local reaction) is common. This is your immune system’s response to the protein rich venom. You may experience some heat near the sting site but it should dissipate by the next day.
If the only affected area is the sting site, you are probably not “allergic”. Less than 3% of the population is truly allergic. That’s not compensation if you are one of that 3%, right?
When to Seek Emergency Help
Local reactions (swelling, redness, itching) are normal. They resolve themselves as long as no infection occurs.
Severe bee allergy reactions are systemic. Affecting parts of the body away from the sting site, they are life threatening. Difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea and a drop in blood pressure can occur.
Anaphylaxis – signs of a severe bee sting reaction include: swelling in the face (unless you were stung there), swelling of the lips, tongue or throat.
This can progress to being unable to breath. Seek emergency help immediately – do not attempt home remedies in this situation.
If your family members are known to be allergic to stings, wear a Medical alert ID. This allows emergency officials to give the best and quickest help.
If you think you may be allergic to insect stings, have a talk with your doctor. Carry an epi-pen or whatever safety precautions are advised. Do not attempt home remedies for bee stings if you are having allergic reactions!
Whether you are known to be allergic or not, let someone know you have been stung. This is in case you get into an emergency condition and need help.
Someone who has a major reaction to a sting once, has a 30% – 60% chance of another. Serious problems generally develop within 1-2 hours.
What to do if You Get Stung by a Bee or Wasp
Many of our natural remedies for stings focus on the goal of preventing infection and giving some relief from discomfort. Sting reactions that last more than a few days or continue to worsen require a trip to the doctor.
- walk away to a safe place
- remove any of the stinger left in the wound
- clean the sting area
- apply a soothing substance
You have been stung by a bee. The first thing you should do is walk quickly away from the sting location. Honey bees do not sting from aggression but defense. Perhaps you are close to a beehive or nest without realizing it!
Wasps too are very protective of their nests and you may be sitting on a bench with a nest underneath! Move away.
But, try to avoid running and flapping your arms! Yes, I know that is easier said than done! But, flapping and running can encourage the bees to follow you.
In the case of honey bees, walk away quickly and get inside or into a wooded area – even inside the car if possible. A honey bee colony has thousands of members while the wasp family is smaller.
Though some insects can bite too – thankfully honey bees do not have teeth or strong mandibles that are capable of piercing your skin. They don’t need sharp teeth with those stingers.
Remove the Stinger (If You See One)
Get that stinger out! Honey bee stingers continue to pump venom for several seconds. The longer you leave the stinger in your skin, the more venom you receive.
Do not squeeze or pull a stinger – avoid using tweezers. Grabbing and squeezing the bee stinger will empty the attached venom sac poison into your skin.
Instead, scrape the stinger out. Using a fingernail, the edge of a credit card or beekeeper hive tool, scrape the stinger off with a quick flicking motion.
All natural remedies for bee stings work better if you were quick to remove that stinger. Less venom means less reaction and less pain later. Of course, if you experienced another type of sting – there will be no stinger.
Clean the Sting Site
Aside from a reaction to venom, a bee sting can get infected. Bacteria on the surface of the skin can be introduced inside the body as the stinger pierces your skin.
Before applying any treatment, clean the area with soap and water. Most stings clear up in a day or so if no infection occurs.
Best Natural Remedies for Bee Stings
If you have a local reaction, the following tips may provide some relief. Try to avoid scratching the sting site. ( I know… it’s difficult.)
- for pain: aspirin, acetaminophen or antihistamine orally -if allowed
- apply a cold compress to the sting area for 10 minute intervals
- baking soda: thick past of baking soda and water to sting site
- spread a small amount of honey on the sting: another awesome use for honey
- toothpaste: applied to site gives relief for bee stings but not wasp
- meat tenderizer applied to sting site
- Apple Cider Vinegar applied to site for 30 minutes
- wet aspirin applied to sting site
- Lavender Oil mixed with Olive Oil applied to site
- Tea Tree Essential Oil mixed with Olive Oil applied to site
- Witch Hazel applied to the sting site several times a day
- Aloe Vera Gel may soothe the swelling
- Meat Tenderizer – mixed with a little water applied to sting site for 30 minutes
- plantain leaves – chew them up and put the paste on the sting site (then make some Plantain Salve for other minor bites.)
A Special Caution for Beekeepers
Beekeepers face a higher risk of being stung than most people. Managing colonies with thousands of stinging insects will result in some stings. That’s just a true fact about bee life.
But over time, beekeepers learn hive management methods to reduce stinging situations. Wearing our protective beekeeping suits and wise use of a bee smoker saves bee lives and lessens our chance of bee-magedon.
Beekeepers can become immune or more allergic to stings. For some, this represents less effects from venom over the years.
Other beekeepers have pain and swelling from their stings early in the season and less so later in Summer.
And then, there is the beekeeper who has little reaction to stings for 20 years and then all of a sudden-develops an dangerous bee allergy. You just never know. Getting stung is a part of beekeeping. Its not my favorite part.
And for those times when you are on the go – consider Stop the Sting – This is a favorite product among my beekeeping friends. It is reported to provide quick sting relief. A blessing when multiple stings are received.
Swelling from a bee sting can last a while. But, the swelling and redness should fade over the next 24 to 48 hours. If you find the redness growing in size, it is time to head to the doctor and check for an infection.
Your pets can suffer from bee stings too. In fact, your dog may even eat a bee but it is not necessarily life threatening. Like a sting to a human, proper attention is needed for any allergic reaction.
Kids are subject to an increased risk if they get stung multiple times. Their bodies are smaller and cannot cope with as much venom.
The treatment protocol for children is the same as adults. A sting or two with no allergic reactions can be treated the same as adults. If in doubt, call your doctor or emergency center.
In the case of small children, I try to explain that the bees only wanted to protect their home. It was not a personal vendetta against the child.Minimizing the drama and staying call is important to avoid having your child develop a true fear of all bees.
Some pain, swelling and redness can last for several days after a sting. However, these local reactions should start to fade within a day or two. If the sting isn’t healing check with your doctor.
Honey bees have a barbed stinger that become stuck in mammal skin. You will see the stinger and attached venom sack if it is there. If a bit of the stinger is left inside, it will look like a tiny black thread.
*** Medical Disclaimer – I am a beekeeper not a doctor. These are suggestions and basic information. Seek medical advise and treatment.