Bees are not only known for their honey, but for their painful stings as well. As sweet as the name may sound, an upset bee will sting you with all it has. Eventually, the bee also dies after stinging when its stringer breaks into the skin and is ripped off their body.
Typically, a sting might annoy you with a little temporary swelling, pain, itch, and redness at the infected area. But if you are allergic to bees or suffer multiple stings, things can get severe and problematic.
When a honeybee stings you, it leaves behind its stringer embedded in your skin which contains a toxin, if you are allergic to that toxin you will suffer severe symptoms. The toxin contains proteins that infect skin cells and immune system.
Bee Sting Symptoms
Symptoms of bee stings may vary from mild to extreme reactions, according to the nature and quantity of stings. These stings can produce a different reaction; some may experience mild pain, while others may suffer a severe allergic reaction.
- Mild reaction – Most reactions from a bee sting will be mild and symptoms will include a burning feeling at the site of the sting, slight swelling and a red welt. For most of the people the symptoms will last only for few hours.
- Moderate reaction – Some people might develop moderate symptoms that include extreme redness and swelling, which enlarges for a day or two. A moderate reaction lasts up to 5 to 10 day. If you develop these symptoms each time you suffer a sting, then consulting a doctor is advisable.
- Severe allergic reaction – Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction caused by a bee sting. It can, at times, be life-threatening and require immediate medical treatment. In rare cases, people suffering from a bee sting develop severe symptoms including hives, itchy skin, pale skin, fainting, a weak heartbeat, swelling of tongue and throat, difficulty in breathing, nausea, and diarrhea.
People with allergies to bee stings may be advised to get immunotherapy to avoid these reactions. Or, your Doctor may prescribe an Epinephrine Kits at home. These kits provide an auto-injector for you to inject yourself in the event of a bee sting. Having a kit at home can be the difference between life and death for someone who has a severe reaction to getting stung.
Multiple Bee Stings
Usually, bees sting in self-defense. If a person disrupts a hive or a swarm of bees, he will likely end up with multiple bee stings, especially if they’re African honeybees. African honeybees are an invasive species that are slowly taking over the United States. They are widely known for their aggressiveness and attacking in swarms. Thankfully, we’re not seeing them in our climate at this point!
Symptoms of multiple bee stings include a severe headache, nausea, vomiting, high temperature, convulsions, vertigo, and fainting. Multiple bee stings require an emergency treatment, as they can cause serious complications in children and adults with heart and breathing problems.
Bee Sting Home Remedies
If your reaction is mild, you may not need to visit a doctor. Home remedies will ease your pain and treat other symptoms, as well. The first thing you’ll want to do is carefully remove the stinger with tweezers or something similar. Don’t squeeze the stinger, as it can cause more venom to be released. After the stinger is clear and you’ve washed with an antibiotic soap, you’ll want to relieve the pain.
Following are the remedies that are mostly used to counter the reaction of a honeybee’s sting:
- Toothpaste – A quick remedy is to apply toothpaste on the affected area as soon as possible. It is believed that the alkaline nature of the paste neutralizes the acidic bee-venom and relieves the patient.
- Papain is an enzyme which is believed to breakdown the protein of the venom that causes pain and itchiness. Make a solution of one part papain and three parts water and apply on the sting area for 30 minutes.
- Baking Soda – Apply a paste of baking soda to the area. This will relieve the pain, swelling and itchiness by neutralizing the venom.
- Honey from the culprit itself will help relive the symptoms. Apply a decent quantity of honey and wrap in a loose bandage.
- Apple cidar vinegar helps neutralizing the bee venom. Soak a cloth in vinegar and apply at the sting point for about 15 minutes.
- Herbs and oils such as aloe vera, natural oils, witch hazel and many others are known for their pain and swelling relieving nature. Dab few drops of one of these on the affected area and dab for few minutes, you will forget about the pain.
Medical Treatment for Bee Stings
If the reaction is severe then you are strictly advised to consult a doctor because as discussed earlier, a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening. A mild reaction doesn’t need medical help, but a multiple sting and a severe reaction are considered as an emergency which require an immediate medical aid.
A medical team may even perform CPR if you stop breathing as result of an anaphylactic reaction. You may be given following medications:
- Epinephrine, to reduce the allergic response of your body. If you are allergic to bee sting then medical experts recommend keeping an epinephrine auto injector with you all the time, in case of emergency situations.
- Oxygen, to help you breathe.
- A beta agonist, to help you counter breathing problems.
- Intravenous antihistamines and cortisone, these medicines will reduce the inflammation of your air passages, so you can breathe properly.
If you ever experienced a severe or multiple sting reaction, then a physician might recommend you to get allergy shots. These shots are generally given regularly for few years and are known to eliminate allergic response to bee venom.
How to Avoid Getting a Bee Sting
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; therefore it is wise to take necessary steps to avoid any such condition. If you live in an area where you have to face honeybees then you should:
- Get the hives near your homes removed by a professional
- Don’t wear bright colored and loose clothes
- Stay calm while walking past through bees
- Wear close-toed shoes
- If it appears that you have a swarm or collection of hives, contact your local government to see about removal.
Following above mentioned advises is important, as it is better to be proactive than to be reactive!
Fine Print: We’re not Doctors, so always check with professionals on the proper treatment of bee stings. We’re just trying to put some commonly known information out there. And of course, you can call us BEFORE you get stung if you see a bee infestation. Of course, if you have a large property, you may even wish to start beekeeping!
Even when you’ve done your best… wearing long sleeves, rugged pants, a hat, light clothing, or even put on repellent, it never fails that when the warm weather hits we’re going to get bitten by bugs.
PLEASE READ: Bites and stings can be deadly. If you’re reading this because your child has been bitten or stung, please get them immediate care at the local emergency room. Children are much more susceptible to allergic reactions. Adults are also susceptible, so it’s always recommended to seek assistance from a medical professional immediately if you have fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, severe sweating, slurred speech, trouble breathing, swelling, or other symptoms.
Venomous insects lead the list of deaths in the United States, with 90 to 100 people dying each year from the bee sting complications – typically allergic reactions leading to anaphylactic shock and death from complications. Additionally, wasps, hornets, fire ants, scorpions, and spiders can also inject venom.
Non-venomous insects like mosquitos and ticks can spread disease and also cause allergic reactions. Recently, a young girl at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health tested positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite and died a few days later.
Leave, Remove, Clean, and Treat
Before you decide to treat your insect bite or sting yourself, you’ll want to take some steps first:
- Move away from the area you were bitten or stung. You don’t want to attract more bees or insects and wind up with more bites or stings.
- Remove any bug, stinger or the jaws of the insect that may be left. Do this carefully to ensure you don’t leave anything in the wound.
- Clean the area with mild soap, rinse, and dry off.
- Treat the symptoms by applying oils, ointment, or taking medication.
Do topical treatments actually work?
You may be surprised to find there’s a lack of evidence that oils and ointments actually work. A study in the UK (which excluded ticks, mites, and lice) found that with or without topical treatments, bug bites and stings generally took the same time before discomfort disappeared or swelling dissipated. Personally, I still think a cold compress and some aloe felt better… I don’t care if it was all in my head!
Symptoms of Insect Bites and Stings
The human body is quite amazing and our ability to fend off complications with bug bites is incredible… but bites can lead to many problems, including:
- Itching – when insects bite, their saliva or venom also injects histamine. Histamine causes our muscles to contract and our blood capillaries to dilate. This is why treatment of bites often includes the use of an antihistamine.
- Hives – some people experience hives and swelling over their entire body from the allergic reaction to a bug bite.
- Rashes – while most insect bites are identified with local swelling, the histamine can also produce a widespread allergic rash beyond your bite area.
- Swelling – along with rashes, your body may have a mild or severe allergic reaction that intensely swells the area. For immediate relief, you can apply ice packs to reduce swelling.
- Blisters – the reactions of bug bites often cause fluid-filled areas called bullae or circular areas called weals. Blisters may be a sign of a more serious reaction and may not appear immediately.
- Ulcer – a dark region called an eschar may appear from a venomous bite after a blister. Get medical assistance immediately for assistance.
Outside of allergic complications, the worst thing you can do with a bite is to scratch it. Scratching can create an open wound that’s highly susceptible to infection and infection can lead to many more complications, including scarring. Try to immediately the relieve the itching so that you’re not tempted to scratch the area.
Natural Antihistamines for Insect Bite and Sting Treatment
In mild cases, you may be able to ingest a natural antihistamine to help fight the histamine release of insects. Healthline lists these 4 best natural antihistamines.
- Stinging Nettle – Freeze-dried nettles can be found online and at health food stores and has been found to relieve the symptoms associated with histamines.
- Quercetin – found in grapefruit, apples, okra, and red wine, or as a supplement, Quercetin helps relieve the side effects of allergies.
- Bromelain – found in pineapples and supplements, it’s also been found to alleviate breathing and inflammation complications associated with allergies.
- Vitamin C – good old Vitamin C has been found to be a great natural antihistamine and it’s found in many fruits and vegetables as well as in supplements. It’s also non-toxic and free of side effects!
Natural Topical Remedies for Insect Bite and Sting Treatment
There are natural remedies that can be applied to your bug bite to help alleviate itching and swelling. This article from Optiderma points to 6 natural remedies:
- Emu Oil – Emu oil is extracted from the fat of the emu bird, can relieve the itching and swelling and can help your bit heal faster without scarring.
- Calendula Cream – relieves irritation and itching and provides antiseptic benefits. A blister can be also be treated by applying calendula ointment on it.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – unpasteurized and organic apple cider vinegar with sediment applied to bug bites can relieve itching and burning. Dilute it if your skin is sensitive and dab it on the wound with a cotton ball or swab.
- Witch Hazel – helps calm itching caused by bug bites. It contains tannins that have a mild anesthetic effect. Apply it on the bite for 10 minutes using a cotton ball.
- Aloe Vera – fresh aloe vera applied a few times a day will relieve your itching with its natural compounds and amino acids. It’s also a soothing gel that will assist in healing.
- Plantain – Native Americans chewed plantain leaves and applied them to insect bites and bee stings. You can shred the leaves and apply it directly to the area to stop the itching of allergic rashes and promote healing.
Over the Counter Insect Bite and Sting Treatment
There are some outstanding oils and ointments that provide incredible relief from the itching and swelling of insect bites and stings that you can find at your local pharmacy or store.
- Hydrocortisone Creams – Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid and works by activating natural substances in the skin to reduce swelling, redness, and itching.
- Oral Antihistamines – diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy and generic) can help ease burning or itching. These can cause drowsiness, so use with caution.
- Pain relievers – as acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic), ibuprofen (Advil and generic), or naproxen (Aleve and generic) can help alleviate the pain associated with the bite or sting.