When bees, wasps, and hornets perceive themselves to be in danger they will sting their attackers. This sting is painful, but under most circumstances still able to be treated at home. There are a number of old wives’ tales on how best to treat a bee, wasp, or hornet sting but some of these methods can help more than harm. A few simple steps are all it takes to best treat this sting and ensure that it heals quickly.
After a Sting: What to Watch For
Above all else the patient should be watched for signs of anaphylaxis. A percentage of people are severely allergic to insect venom and this reaction could be life-threatening. Keep watch for trouble breathing, severe reddening or swelling of skin, nausea or vomiting, a tight feeling in the throat, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or loss of consciousness. If the person who has been stung exhibits these signs, they should be taken to a hospital as quickly as possible.
Action You Can Take After a Sting
In the event that a severe allergic reaction does not occur, home treatment of a sting begins with removing the stinger quickly. When the stinger remains in the skin, so does the venom sac that is attached, and it will continue to pump venom so long as it remains embedded in skin. A flat object such as a credit card, butter knife, or fingernail should be used to scrape the stinger out.
Once the stinger is removed, any tight-fitting clothing or jewelry in the stung area should likewise be removed to prevent discomfort and injury when the affected area swells. The area should be elevated and iced in order to minimize swelling. Icing will also aid in pain reduction. A painkiller such as acetaminophen or an antihistamine can be taken, depending on if pain or itching is more of a concern.
Additional home remedies can be safely used to relieve discomfort, such as vinegar, which neutralizes the alkaline in venom. Medicated itch creams such as calamine lotion and creams meant to soothe insect bites can also help. Some people swear by applying toothpaste to the site. However, some remedies should be strictly avoided–application of chewing tobacco to the site will not help.
While the bee, hornet, or wasp sting heals, the area should be kept clean. Infection is a concern with any wound, including insect stings. Thankfully stings heal relatively quickly for most people and the wound will soon be just a painful memory.