The pain and swelling around the site of a sting will usually go away in a few days without treatment. In the meantime, home remedies can reduce discomfort and speed the healing process.
However, if a person has an allergic reaction to a bee sting, they will need immediate medical attention. If the swelling spreads outward from the area of the sting, or if it occurs in other parts of the body, this indicates an allergic reaction.
Before using any remedies, inspect the sting site.
If the bee’s stinger is still in the skin, remove it by wiping the area with gauze or scraping it with a fingernail. Do not squeeze the stinger by hand or with tweezers.
Honey bees can only sting once, because they leave their stingers behind them. Removing the stinger and its venom sac from the skin will prevent further irritation.
Below, home remedies are described that relieve swelling and pain caused by bee stings and explore related research:
Immediately after a bee sting, wash the area thoroughly to remove any remaining bee venom.
Then, apply ice to reduce pain and swelling:
- Wrap an ice pack, or a bag of ice or frozen vegetables in a cloth
- Place the bundle against the site of the sting
- Hold the bundle in place for several minutes
- Repeat as needed
Always use a cloth to protect the skin from the ice. Ice can damage the skin if it touches it directly.
Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera is a plant-based gel that naturally soothes and moisturises the skin. Aloe vera extract has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Spreading a little gel onto the bee sting can reduce swelling and help prevent the site from becoming infected.
Aloe vera gel is available to buy in many drug stores and online.
People often use calamine lotion to relieve itchy skin, and it may also help reduce pain and itching caused by a sting from a bee or wasp.
If the site of the sting becomes itchy, try rubbing on a little calamine lotion. It is available for purchase in health stores or online.
Honey has many medicinal properties. It contains compounds that combat inflammation, so it may help reduce swelling.
The natural antibacterial agents in honey may also help prevent infection and speed healing.
Try spreading a small amount of honey onto the sting. Do this indoors, so the smell of the honey does not attract more bees.
One unconventional home remedy involves spreading alkaline toothpaste on the site of the sting to neutralise the venom.
There is no clinical research to support this use of toothpaste.
To try it, spread a small amount of toothpaste onto the sting site, but proceed with caution. The skin may react to the toothpaste, especially if it is left on for longer periods.
At any sign of a reaction, rinse off the toothpaste right away.
People can usually manage their bee sting symptoms using over-the-counter creams and oral medications, including:
- Hydrocortisone creams, which can help reduce redness, itching, swelling, and pain
- Oral antihistamines, which can help reduce itching and redness
- Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, which can reduce pain and swelling
- If a person has an extreme allergic reaction, they may need an epinephrine injection.
Epinephrine is a chemical that narrows blood vessels and opens airways in the lungs. This signals the body to pump more blood and relax the muscles to regulate breathing and blood pressure. The injection is best known by the brand name EpiPen
When to see a doctor
If a person has an allergic reaction to a bee sting, they may develop anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that requires medical attention.
A person who has any of the following symptoms after a bee sting should receive emergency medical attention:
- Swelling of the tongue or throat
- A rapid heart rate
- Pale skin
- A loss of consciousness
- Severe itchiness
- Trouble breathing
A person may also require medical attention if they have been stung multiple times.
Honey bees are the only stinging insects that leave their stingers behind. Others stinging insects, such as wasps, and hornets, can sting multiple times. Each sting contains venom.
Most people do not have severe reactions to single bee stings.
Ice, other home remedies, and over-the-counter medications are usually able to relieve discomfort. Some alternative home remedies include honey, aloe vera, and calamine lotion.
Still, it is important to be able to identify signs of a severe allergic reaction. If hives, light-headedness, or trouble breathing follow a bee sting, a person should receive emergency medical care.
Source: Medical News Today