How to Treat a Bee Sting Swelling – 10 Home Remedies for Bee Bite That Actually Work
There are over 20,000 different species of bees around the world, each with their separate breeding and nesting habits. And while some of them like the carpenter bees or ground bees are not harmful, others like Africanised honey bees or bumble bees are a force to be reckoned with. When stung by a bee, the wound must be immediately treated so as to avoid the poison to further spread inside the body. We have discussed a few simple home remedies and tips on how to treat a bee sting that will be of help when dealing with such a case.
Some Interesting Facts About Bees Bites
Bees are naturally docile creatures, preferring to stay away from humans. However, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of attacking when provoked. In fact, most bees have venomous stingers that can cause rashes, inflammation, intense pain and discomfort. Here are some interesting facts about bees and their stingers that would give you a glimpse into their mysterious life:
- Only the female bee stings, the stingers are evolved from the ovipositors that are used to lay eggs. It also carries venom that is injected into the prey paralyzing
- Only 75% of the bee species have stingers, others usually bite their prey
- The honey bee has a unique barbed stinger that gets stuck in the body of the victim
- The honey bee dies after stinging its prey because a major chunk of her internal organs are ripped from its abdomen as it tries to fly away after stinging. Ouch!
- The stinger of the queen bee is not barbed; she can sting more than once without harming herself.
Signs and symptoms of a bee sting
Now, bee stings can produce numerous reactions on the human body ranging from temporary discomfort to severe allergies. Also, your body always won’t react the same way to every bee sting. Some common signs and side-effects of a bee sting are mentioned below:
- The mild reaction to bee sting would be a sharp burning sensation, red bumps and slight swelling around the area
- Some people have a stronger reaction, i.e. extreme redness and inflammation that usually enlarges over the next day or two
- The severe sting reaction or anaphylaxis can be potentially fatal
- The allergic reactions include rashes, breathing problems, swelling of the throat, weak pulse, nausea, diarrhoea, and dizziness.
What exactly happens when a bee stings?
If a worker bee senses a threat to the hive, it will sting and use the pheromones to call in the entire cavalry for the attack. Most female worker bees (even the queen) have stingers attached to their bodies. These stingers are connected to venom sack that injects the bee poison into the prey when stung. A bee sting itches for two to three days normally.
Now, bee venom is about 88% water and this is why the insects sting their prey on the moist tissues for better chances of spreading the venom. Bee venom is odorless and slightly acidic in nature, the allergen (called melittin) is what causes the acute pain and burning sensation after the sting. This is because the melittin causes the RBCs at the sting site to burst and collapse causing a drop in the overall blood pressure in the body. The tiny blotches and rashes are caused by histamine (there’s about 9% of it in bee venom). The histamine causes the capillaries to leak and contributes to the pain.
The Reactions And Allergies Caused By Bee Stings
There are two distinct ways in which the bees can actually kill you, either by an allergic reaction or by attacking you in massive numbers. Only 3.3% of the population is severely allergic to bees, most just show some minor symptoms that stay for a few days. Itchiness, rashes, swelling, acute pain are some of the common reactions of the bee sting. The trouble begins when these reactions persist over a week and are aggravated. The severity of the reaction would depend on person to person. For instance, some people might feel dizzy or nauseous, others would have a high fever. Here are some of the well-known allergies caused by stingers that you should be aware of
- Extensive rashes around the sting area
- Pimple-like red spots
- Mild to moderate inflammation
- Breathing problems
- Red, itchy hives that spread over the body
- Swelling of the throat, jaws, tongue and mouth tissue
- Wheezing, restlessness, and anxiety
- Rapid pulse
- The immediate drop in blood pressure.
The preliminary first-aid solutions
You are not completely powerless in curing a bee sting case if it is minor. If someone shows signs of severe allergies, take them to a doctor ASAP. However, if they show no such symptoms you can take care of the problem yourself. Here are some immediate first-aid solutions for quick bee sting relief
- If the stinger is still embedded into the skin, take it out gently. Avoid using tweezers, scrape the skin with a flat-edged object instead
- Then wash the area with soap and water
- Place a cold compress on the bee sting swelling to reduce the pain and redness
- Apply calamine lotion or baking soda paste to relieve the itchiness
- Take an acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) for quick relief
How to remove a bee stinger?
The first step in treating a bee sting is to remove the stinger. According to the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management program, the venom continues to enter the bloodstream of the prey 45-60 seconds after the sting. It is best that you remove the stinger 15 seconds after the attack to reduce swelling and itch. Now, most people would reach for the tweezers, that’s not the way to go about it. Squeezing the sting using tweezers only spreads the venom.
Listed below are some effective methods to stop the sting from hurting.
- Use a flat-edged object like a credit card or nail filer. Scrape the skin with it and gently pull out the stinger
- Use a sterilized needle or pin to scrape the surface of the stinger
- Use an onion
- You can also use a penny, a blunt butter knife, or your fingernail
- Apply some ice on the surface of the skin before you scape the stinger out
- Put on some tape on the skin and gently pull the stinger forward
- Hair removal wax also effectively pulls out the stinger from the skin in no time
How to treat a bee sting at home?
Some of the best bee sting treatment remedies are discussed in detail below:
Essential oils and Herbs
Have a backyard garden full of aromatic herbs and fancy plants? Well, these herbs are more than just aesthetically appealing plants. Most of the plants actually help relieve the swelling and pain caused by a bee sting. Aloe Vera, lavender oil, tea tree oil, witch hazel and calendula cream are a few herbs that have healing properties. They are naturally anti-sceptic and anti-inflammatory. Put on some diluted essential oils onto the skin to stop the pain.
Limewater is also an important ingredient for curing a bee sting. A mixture of limestone and water is highly alkaline, effectively neutralizing the acidic effect of the venom. Other than that, applying limewater on the sting area also prevents the venom from spreading to other body parts.
Garlic and Coconut Oil
Garlic known for its anti-bacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties is a popular bee sting anaphylaxis treatment. Heat the coconut oil on a low flame, then crush 1-2 garlic cloves and put them in the oil. Let the mixture rest for a while before gently applying it to the affected area. Leave it on your skin for a couple of hours before wiping it off with a towel.
Fennel Seeds and Rock Salt
Another effective bee sting treatment is using fennel seeds and rock salt to ease the inflammation. Fennel seeds are a well-known Ayurveda remedy that is rich in magnesium and selenium. It effectively reduces the itchiness and swelling of the affected area. Fennel seeds also contain volatile oil and Anatole that along with rock salt helps with the pain
Put some toothpaste on the affected area, let it dry out for a while and then wash it thoroughly with cold water. The glycerol content present in the toothpaste dries out the venom. Also, the paste balances out the acid with its alkaline content thereby reducing the swelling and itchiness. Avoid using whitening, get-based or colored toothpaste though as it might cause some untoward chemical reaction on the sting.
Tobacco, though injurious to health when smoked or chewed, is an effective cure for stings by bees. Tobacco has high alkaline levels that neutralize the acidic content of the venom. Other than that tobacco also takes care of the swelling, pain, and redness of the bee sting. All you have to do is apply a paste of tobacco and water and bandage the area with a cotton cloth.
A paste of baking soda and water is among the best tried and trusted remedies for reducing the ill-effects of a bee sting. For starters, the paste balances out the acidic content of the venom. And secondly, baking soda is known for relieving swelling and itchiness of the sting area. You can even add some vinegar to the mixture for better effect.
There might be times when the bees catch you unaware and you’re not prepared for the required medical assistance or natural remedies for that matter. In such a case a handful of mud can work wonders to ease the pain. Mud creates a difference in the osmotic pressure due to the salt present in the body fluid. You can easily remove the venom from your system by applying a thick mud paste over the sting area.
The white crystals of Epson salt contain sulfate and magnesium, both minerals known for reducing rashes and swelling caused by sting on the face, finger,and foot. Applying Epsom salt on the affected area helps pull out the stinger smoothly without much pain. Form a thick paste of water and Epsom salt and apply it gently on the skin. You can also soak your feet in salt water to relieve the swelling and pain.
When to seek medical help?
Bee stings are a common outdoor nuisance, nothing that basic first-aid and simple home remedies can take care of. But, if you are allergic to bee stings or have been stung a number of times then you may have a serious injury that requires immediate medical attention. Call 911 or other emergency services in case you notice some severe allergic reactions that suggest anaphylaxis. For immediate help use the epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) right away as prescribed by a medical professional.
Some precautionary measures to avoid being stung
Here are some tips to protect you from bee stingers
- Avoid keeping sweet beverages and fruits outside in the backyard
- Tightly cover the trash cans, keep the garden clean and clutter free
- Wear close-toedshoes when walking outside
- Avoid wearing bright colors and floral prints when going out to the garden
- Be careful while mowing the lawn or tending to plants
- If confronted by a swarm of bees do not run, be calm and slowly walk away from the area
- If a bee stings you, immediately cover your mouth and nose and try escaping the place as quietly as possible
The bottom Line
Bees buzzing about the garden, moving from flower to flower, just going about their day are a pretty common sight in most homes. Also, contrary to popular belief, most bees are not aggressive and are perfectly capable of coexisting with their human neighbors. The trouble begins when they are disturbed or sense a threat to their homes, which is when they attack. Don’t worry though, we got you covered. Quick action can help you quickly recover from a bee sting. Now you know what to do in case someone you know gets stung by a bee.
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