Taking the Ouch Out of a Bee Sting
If you have ever experienced a bee sting, you probably went searching for relief. The good news is – you may already have some home remedies for bee stings in your kitchen cabinets.
Almost everyone has experienced a bee sting at some time. And while it sure does hurt, a couple of stings are not usually dangerous unless you are allergic to bee venom.
Keep in mind that not all stinging insects are bees. Wasps and hornets sting too! Why does this matter?
Well, all stings hurt and may swell and cause discomfort but wasp venom is different than bee venom. So, you could be allergic to either one or both!
If you may be allergic, always have a talk with your doctor. And carry an epi-pen or whatever precautions are advised.
Beekeepers Get Stung Too
Are you a beekeeper? Let’s talk about honey bee stings. Most of us will have experienced a bee sting from a honey bee. This is especially true if you liked to run barefoot through the clover-like me!
A big part of becoming a good beekeeper involves learning how to work with honey bees. With some experience, a beekeeper knows the best times for hive inspections.
Also, we can tell when the bees have had enough and it’s time to close the hive and try another day. Wearing our protective beekeeping suits and wise use of a bee smoker saves bee lives and lessens our chance of bee-magedon.
Most Bee Stings are Not Intentional
Honey bees only sting when they feel threatened. They will defend their home-so don’t go too close. But these bees are not aggressive while out foraging.
In most cases, you are safe to stand quietly and watch a bee gather pollen. Now wasps and their cousins, they tend to take a different view of things so give them extra space.
Another reason honey bees are reluctant to sting without provocation, it kills them.
A honey bee stinger has a barbed end that becomes embedded in your skin. The stinger and venom sac rips out of the honey bee’s body.
What to Do If You Get Stung by a Bee?
Oh no! It has happened. You have been stung by a bee. The first thing you should do is walk quickly away from the sting location. Perhaps you are close to a nest without realizing it!
Try to avoid running and flapping your arms! Yes, I know that is easier said than done! If you are near a hive, flapping and running can encourage the bees to follow you.
Just walk away quickly and get inside or into a wooded area.
How to Remove a Bee Stinger
If you have a stinger stuck in your skin, you have likely been stung by a honey bee. Yes it hurts but a bee can only sting you once.
Wasps (such as Yellow Jackets) have smooth stingers and can sting repeatedly!
Once you are away from the site of the “attack” or at least moving away, get the stinger out quickly. Speed counts in this situation.
The stinger will continue to pump venom for several seconds. The longer you leave the bee stinger in your skin, the more venom you receive.
Any bee sting treatment will work better if you were quick to remove that stinger. Less venom means less reaction and pain later.
Do Not Squeeze and Pull a Stinger!
Do not grab and squeeze the stinger. The attached venom sac will empty the remainder of the “poison” into your skin.
Instead, scrape the stinger out . Using a finger nail, credit card or beekeeper hive tool, scrape the stinger off with a quick flicking motion.
Clean the Bee 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.
Clean the bee sting area with soap and water. Most stings clear up in a day or so if no infection occurs.
Relief For Bee Sting Swelling and Itch
Many of our home remedies for bee stings focus on the goal of preventing infection and giving relief from discomfort.
Thankfully, you should only experience discomfort for a short time. Any problems that last more than a few days or continue to worsen require a trip to the doctor.
Cold for Bee Sting Relief
Applying an ice pack to the sting site may relieve pain and reduce swelling. Don’t have an ice pack?
You can wrap a few ice cubes in a wash cloth or take a pack of frozen vegetables out of the freezer.
Holding the ice pack to the affected area for 15 minutes is the normal recommendation.
This is a favorite product among my beekeeping friends. It is reported to provide quick sting relief. A blessing when multiple stings are received.
I like to keep some in my beekeeping toolbox and the car. If your family spends a lot of time outdoors, this might be a good addition to your first aid kit.
A Normal Bee Sting Reaction-It’s Local Y’all
Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Bee stings hurt-in my opinion. And, some stings hurt worse than others.
Many of my beekeeping friends swear that stings are more painful in late summer than earlier in the year! Pain for a short time does not signal a major problem.
Swelling, Redness and Itching-
Some swelling and redness (a local reaction) is common. This is your immune system’s response to the protein rich bee venom.
If the only affected area is the bee sting site, you are probably not “allergic” to bees. Less than 3% of the population is truly allergic. That’s not compensation if you are one of that 3%, right?
You may experience some heat near the sting site but it should dissipate by the next day.
How Long Does it Take A Bee Sting to Heal?
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.
Itching can be intense at the sting site but it too should fade. Try to avoid scratching which increases the risk of infection.
What to Do When a Kid Gets a Bee Sting?
Kids are subject to more risk if they get stung multiple times. Their bodies are smaller and cannot cope with as much venom. Treatment protocol for children is the same as adults.
Remove the stinger, clean the area, ice pack, watch for systemic reactions. If you suspect a worsening condition, call 911.
An Allergic Reaction to a Bee Sting
Whether you are known to be allergic to bee stings 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 an allergic reaction once, has a 30% – 60% chance of another. Serious problems generally develop within 1-2 hours.
I know beekeepers who have kept bees for years with no serious sting reactions. Then suddenly, they become allergic!
I always take precautions when I am stung by my honey bees. I make sure someone knows and I take a Benadryl for good measure.
If you are a beekeeper, it is a good idea to keep a phone handy during beehive inspections.
When to Seek Emergency Help for a Bee Sting
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.
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.
If your family members are known to be allergic to bee stings, wear ID. This allows emergency officials to give the best and quickest help.
How Long Does a Bee Sting Hurt?
In my experience, pain from a bee sting lessens after 6-12 hours. I often experience some heat at the sting site.
Itching, minor swelling and redness begin to fade by the next day. Usually by day 2, the area is back to normal except for some residual itching.
Home Remedies for Bee Stings
If you have a local reaction, the following home remedies may provide some relief. Try to avoid scratching the sting site. ( I know… it’s difficult.)
Home Remedies for Bee Stings
- for pain: aspirin, acetaminophen or antihistamine -if allowed
- baking soda: thick past of baking soda and water to sing site
- honey: some folks swear that the use of honey on the site helps
- 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
Other Natural Bee Sting Remedies
*Essential Oils: Lavender Oil or Tea Tree Oil . These 2 essential oils are included in our best home remedies for bee stings.
Essential oils are strong and should be mixed with a “carrier oil” (olive oil etc.) before applied to the skin.
*Grandma’s Remedy. My grandparents always kept a bottle of Witch Hazel. This is an herbal treatment used for many things. Witch Hazel must be included in our list of home remedies for bee stings. It is reported to reduce inflammation, itching and pain.
Getting stung is a part of beekeeping. Its not my favorite part. Whether you are a beekeeper or not, chances are you will experience a sting. Jot down these home remedies for bee stings just in case!
*** Medical Disclaimer – I am a beekeeper not a doctor. These are suggestions. Seek medical treatment as needed.