Home reme­dies: stung by a bee

In most cases it’s an­noy­ing but home treat­ment is all that’s re­ally nec­es­sary

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MAYO CLINIC NEWS NET­WORK

In most cases, bee stings are just an­noy­ing, and home treat­ment is all that’s nec­es­sary to ease the pain of bee stings. But if you’re al­ler­gic to bee stings or you get stung nu­mer­ous times, you may have a more-se­ri­ous re­ac­tion that re­quires emer­gency treat­ment.

Bee stings can pro­duce dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions, rang­ing from tem­po­rary pain and dis­com­fort to a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion. Hav­ing one type of re­ac­tion doesn’t mean you’ll al­ways have the same re­ac­tion ev­ery time you’re stung, or that the next re­ac­tion will nec­es­sar­ily be more se­vere.

You’re more likely to have an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to bee stings if you’ve had an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to a bee sting in the past, even if it was mi­nor. Adults tend to have more-se­vere re­ac­tions than chil­dren do and are more likely to die of ana­phy­laxis than chil­dren are.

Most of the time, bee sting symp­toms are mi­nor and in­clude: In­stant, sharp burn­ing pain at the sting site A red welt at the sting area Slight swelling around the sting area In most peo­ple, the swelling and pain go away within a few hours. Treat­ment for mi­nor re­ac­tions Re­move the stinger quickly, as it takes only sec­onds for the venom to en­ter your body. Get the stinger out any way you can, such as with your fin­ger­nails or tweez­ers. Wash the sting area with soap and wa­ter. Ap­ply a cold com­press. Mod­er­ate re­ac­tions Some peo­ple who get stung by a bee or other in­sect have a bit stronger re­ac­tion, with signs and symp­toms such as: Ex­treme red­ness Swelling at the site of the sting that grad­u­ally en­larges over the next day or two

Mod­er­ate re­ac­tions tend to re­solve over five to 10 days. Hav­ing a mod­er­ate re­ac­tion doesn’t mean you’ll have a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion the next time you’re stung. But some peo­ple de­velop sim­i­lar mod­er­ate re­ac­tions each time they’re stung. If this hap­pens to you, talk to your doc­tor about treat­ment and pre­ven­tion, es­pe­cially if the re­ac­tion be­comes more se­vere each time. Treat­ment for mod­er­ate re­ac­tions The fol­low­ing steps may help ease the swelling and itch­ing of­ten as­so­ci­ated with large lo­cal re­ac­tions: Re­move the stinger as soon as you can.

Wash the af­fected area with soap and wa­ter. Ap­ply a cold com­press. Take an over-the-counter pain re­liever as needed. You might try ibupro­fen (Motrin IB, Chil­dren’s Motrin, oth­ers) to help ease dis­com­fort. If the sting is on an arm or leg, el­e­vate it. Ap­ply hy­dro­cor­ti­sone cream or calamine lo­tion to ease red­ness, itch­ing or swelling.

If itch­ing or swelling is both­er­some, take an oral an­ti­his­tamine that con­tains diphen­hy­dramine (Be­nadryl) or chlor­pheni­ramine (Chlor-Trime­ton).

Avoid scratch­ing the sting area. This will worsen itch­ing and swelling and in­crease your risk of in­fec­tion. Se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion A se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion (ana­phy­laxis) to bee stings is po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing and re­quires emer­gency treat­ment. A small per­cent­age of peo­ple who are stung by a bee or other in­sect quickly de­velop ana­phy­laxis. Signs and symp­toms of ana­phy­laxis in­clude:

Skin re­ac­tions, in­clud­ing hives and itch­ing and flushed or pale skin Dif­fi­culty breath­ing Swelling of the throat and tongue A weak, rapid pulse Nau­sea, vom­it­ing or di­ar­rhea Dizzi­ness or faint­ing Loss of con­scious­ness Peo­ple who have a se­vere al­ler­gic re­ac­tion to a bee sting have a 30 to 60 per cent chance of ana­phy­laxis the next time they’re stung. Talk to your doc­tor or an al­lergy spe­cial­ist about pre­ven­tion mea­sures such as im­munother­apy (“al­lergy shots”) to avoid a sim­i­lar re­ac­tion in case you get stung again. Make an ap­point­ment to see your doc­tor if: Bee sting symp­toms don’t go away within a few days

You’ve had other symp­toms of an al­ler­gic re­sponse to a bee sting

In most cases, bee stings don’t re­quire a visit to your doc­tor. In more-se­vere cases, you’ll need im­me­di­ate care.

Call 911 or other emer­gency ser­vices if you’re hav­ing a se­ri­ous re­ac­tion to a bee sting that sug­gests ana­phy­laxis, even if it’s just one or two signs or symp­toms. If you were pre­scribed an emer­gency ep­i­neph­rine au­toin­jec­tor (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, oth­ers), use it right away as your doc­tor di­rected.

Seek prompt med­i­cal care if you’ve been swarmed by bees and have mul­ti­ple stings.


Try one of these home reme­dies for a bee sting.

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