A bee or wasp sting is an uncomfortable and often painful experience that is common during the warmer months when these stinging insects are most active and people spend more time outdoors.
Bees and wasps use their stingers as a means of self-defense. The stingers contain poisonous venom that causes reactions in your body.
People experience different symptoms, ranging from temporary pain and discomfort to severe allergic reactions.
Minor symptoms include instant, sharp, burning pain; a red welt with a small white spot at the center; and, swelling at the sting site. Mild symptoms tend to go away within a couple of days. Moderate symptoms tend to resolve over 5 to 10 days.
Bee venom can trigger a more serious immune system reaction in those who are allergic to it or when there have been multiple bee or wasp stings. In these cases, seek medical help immediately.
For mild and moderate reactions, home treatment can help ease the pain, swelling, itching and redness.
Here are the top 10 ways to treat a bee or wasp sting.
1. Remove the Stinger
The first step is to immediately remove the stinger embedded in your skin. It takes just a few seconds for all of the harmful venom to enter your body.
- Scrape the sting site with a fingernail or use a pair of tweezers to remove the stinger.
- Wash the area with antiseptic soap and water.
- Pat dry and apply some antiseptic ointment. You can also apply calamine lotion to ease itching and swelling.
Note: Avoid pinching the stinger, as it will inject more venom into the skin.
2. Apply Ice
The next step is to apply an ice compress on the affected area to get immediate relief from various symptoms.
Cold temperature slows the distribution of inflammatory substances to the bite site. It also helps numb the pain as well as reduces swelling.
- Put some ice cubes in a thin washcloth and tie it.
- Hold this pack on the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Reapply every few hours until the pain and swelling are gone.
You can also hold a cold bottle of water or a bag of frozen vegetables on the affected area.
Note: Never put ice directly on the skin, which can cause frostbite.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda is an alkaline product that helps neutralize the acidic venom, thus providing quick relief from pain, itching and swelling.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda with a little water to make a paste.
- Apply the paste on the sting site for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Wash the area with lukewarm water.
- If the discomfort persists, repeat the remedy after a few hours.
4. Witch Hazel
Witch hazel is another effective natural remedy for bee or wasp stings. Due to its anti-inflammatory and astringent properties, it helps ease the itching, pain and swelling.
- Dab a little witch hazel (preferably chilled in the refrigerator) on the affected area and allow it to dry on it own.
- Repeat as needed.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar also helps neutralize the acid in the venom. It also eases pain and reduces itching and swelling.
- Soak a cotton ball in raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
- Hold the cotton ball over the welt for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Repeat as needed.
If you do not have apple cider vinegar, you can use white vinegar.
Honey is another good remedy for bee stings. It helps dilute the venom and its antibacterial nature reduces the risk of infection. The soothing nature of honey helps alleviate symptoms quickly.
- Smear a little pure, raw honey on the affected area, allow it to dry and then rinse it off with warm water. Repeat a few times a day.
- You can also mix equal amounts of raw honey and turmeric to make a paste. Apply it on the affected area, a few times daily for a few days.
7. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera gel is another good remedy for bee or wasp stings. Its soothing and anti-inflammatory properties help ease pain, swelling and itching.
- Wash an aloe vera leaf, then slit it open with a knife and extract the gel.
- Apply this fresh gel on the affected area.
- Reapply a few times daily for a few days.
This herb helps disinfect a bee or sting and soothes the itching. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties help reduce pain, swelling and inflammation.
- Apply 1 or 2 drops of peppermint essential oil directly on the sting site, a few times a day. If you have sensitive skin, mix the essential oil in carrier oil like olive oil or coconut oil and then apply.
- Another option is to extract the juice of fresh peppermint leaves and rub it on the affected area. Allow it to dry on its own before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat 1 or 2 more times, as needed.
Essential oils like that of peppermint and lavender also repel bees and other insects.
Another remedy to neutralize the venom and promote quick recovery is aspirin. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also help control pain and swelling.
- Crush a regular aspirin into a powder.
- Add a few drops of water to form a thin paste.
- Apply it on the welt and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
- Wash it off with lukewarm water.
- Repeat as needed.
10. White Toothpaste
White toothpaste, too, can help treat bee or wasp stings. It helps neutralize the acidic venom, thereby reducing pain and swelling.
- Smear a little white toothpaste on the affected area.
- Allow it to sit for a few hours.
- Clean it off with a damp washcloth.
- Repeat as needed.
Note: Do not use whitening, gel or colored toothpaste.
- When you notice bees flying around you, stay calm, cover your mouth and nose, and slowly walk away from the area.
- Avoid swatting at bees, which can cause them to sting you as a defensive response.
- Avoid scratching the affected area, as it may increase the risk of infection.
- Tightly cover food containers when eating outside to prevent attracting insects like bees and wasps. Also, keep trashcans covered.
- If you were stung on your arm or leg, elevate it to ease the symptoms.
- Remove any tight-fitting jewelry from the area of the sting as it may become difficult to remove after the swelling.
- If you have beehives near your home, consult a professional for removal.