What happens after a bee sting?
For the general population, bee stings are just an inconvenience. You might encounter a brief sharp pain, redness, swelling, itching, and warmth at the sting spot, but there are no severe aftereffects. However, if you have an allergy to bees or have gotten stung multiple times, they can become an issue. In some cases, it might even be fatal. When a honeybee stings, it releases its stinger into your skin and this eventually kills it. They are, in fact, the only species of bees that die after stinging. This does not apply to wasps and other species, allowing them to sting you a few times. During a bee sting, a venomous toxin is injected into your body and could possibly result in pain and other symptoms. Some people are unfortunately allergic to it. Mild allergic reactions might bring about extreme redness and more swelling at the spot.
Worst Symptoms to Take Note of
More serious reactions might cause:
- Pale skin
- Swelling of tongue and throat
- Severe itching
- Rapid pulse
- Breathing difficulties
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
In the case of serious reaction symptoms, seek help immediately. You might be experiencing anaphylactic shock, which is a fatal allergic reaction.
Unless you are having an allergic reaction or showing signs of severe cases, bee stings can be treated at home. After being stung, pull out the stinger without delay using your fingernails or the edge of a credit card. This would reduce the number of toxins released into your skin. Clean the sting site with water and soap. The best way to lessen the venom absorption is to ice the site while reducing swelling at the same time. Though these home treatments are not scientifically proven, they have been passed down for generations.
These home cures might help alleviate the symptoms:
Honey might be useful for pain, itching and would quicken the healing process. To do so, spread a small amount on the affected spot. Loosely bandage it and leave it on for roughly an hour.
Make a paste using baking soda and water which could help to subdue the bee venom and reduce itching, pain, and swelling. Apply a thick coat to the area and bandage it. Leave it on for 15 minutes or more and apply again when required.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Vinegar is also useful in neutralizing bee venom. Soak the spot that was stung in a tub of apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes or more. Alternatively, you could also use a vinegar-soaked bandage or cloth and wrap it around the sting site.
Some believe that alkaline toothpaste would neutralize the acidic venom of the honeybee. However, this would mean that it is not effective on the alkaline venom of wasps. Though the effectiveness of toothpaste as a treatment is debatable, it is low-cost and easy to try out. You would just have to apply a little on the sting site.
Papain, an enzyme in the tenderizer is claimed to break down the protein responsible for pain and itch. Make a solution using a meat tenderizer and water in a 1:4 ratio. Apply it for a maximum of 30 minutes.
Wet Aspirin Tablet
A common option that people opt for to reduce pain and swelling is to spread aspirin paste or wet aspirin onto the affected area. However, the results of a study done in 2003 actually showed that this method increased redness. It was not as effective in reducing the swelling or pain as compared to icing it.
Herbs and Oils
These herbs help wounds in healing and alleviating bee sting symptoms.
- Aloe vera: Usually used for reducing irritation and pain relief. If you happen to have an aloe vera plant, break the leaf and squeeze the gel inside onto the sting site.
- Calendula cream: It is an antiseptic for minor wound healing and relieving skin irritation. Apply it on the wound and bandage it up.
- Lavender essential oil: It helps with anti-inflammation and reduces swelling. Dilute the oil with another carrier oil; for instance, coconut or olive oil. Then, put a few drops onto the affected area.
- Tea tree oil: It is a natural antiseptic and could help to lessen pain. Mix it with a carrier oil as mentioned above and apply a few drops.
- Witch hazel: It is a tried and tested herbal treatment for bee stings and insect bites. It is effective in reducing pain, itch and inflammation. Apply it directly onto the area.
Icing it or applying cold compresses are some conventional methods of reducing pain and swelling. Motrin or Advil could be used as anti-inflammatories while hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion could be used for itch and redness. If the swelling and itch become more serious, you could consider taking an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl. To prevent risking an infection, resist your urge to scratch the spot as it could worsen swelling, redness, and itchiness. You would need to bring along an EpiPen with you constantly if you suffered from an anaphylactic shock from a bee sting before. If you got stung again, then using the EpiPen could prevent you from suffering from a severe allergic reaction.
When to consult a doctor?
On a normal basis, you would not have to consult a doctor. However, if you suffer any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction such as breathing difficulties, dizziness or hives, contact your local emergency services. Do not even try to drive yourself to the hospital. Consult your doctor if you have used your EpiPen after the sting. Seek emergency help if you have been unfortunately stung more than once. If your symptoms do not improve after a few days, that is a signal for you to seek help.
Bee stings could be painful and bring discomfort, regardless of whether you are allergic or not. Remember to maintain composure and it is highly likely that you would be fine. Bee allergies could happen to anyone at any time, even for those who did not exhibit allergic reactions previously. It is crucial to monitor your symptoms. Especially when outdoors, take precautionary measures to avoid bee stings like avoid walking around barefooted, disturbing beehives or putting on sweet-smelling perfume, or body products.