It can happen fast. One minute the kids are all playing peacefully outside on a warm, spring day. The next minute a piercing scream reveals that one them has been stung by a bee. To help alleviate the panic, it’s important to know what to do – and not do – to treat a bee sting.
The first thing to do is to get the stinger out quickly. The longer the stinger stays in the skin, the more venom it releases, adding to the person’s pain and swelling.
To treat a sting from a bee, wasp, or hornet, Dr. Storey recommends the following tips:
- Stay calm. Although most bees usually only sting once, wasps and hornets can sting again. If you are stung, calmly walk away from the area to avoid additional attacks.
- Remove the stinger. If the stinger remains in your skin, remove it by scraping over it with your fingernail or a piece of gauze. Never use tweezers to remove a stinger, as squeezing it can cause more venom to release into your skin.
- Wash the sting with soap and water.
- Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. However, if the swelling moves to other parts of your body, such as your face or neck, go to the emergency room immediately, as you might be having an allergic reaction. Other signs of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, nausea, hives, or dizziness.
- Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication. Bee, wasp, and hornet stings are painful. Painkillers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain. Always follow the directions on the label and use the correct dose.
Although most people do not experience severe reactions to bee stings, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on anyone who has been stung in case they develop more serious symptoms. If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction or had multiple stings, seek medical treatment immediately.