Here’s what to do when you get stung by a bee

OEvery time I get the chance to enjoy an ice cream cone in the summer, it seems like a bee is always nearby, threatening to sting me. Granted, the bees hiding near my treat are tame if left alone, but bee stings can happen to anyone and they are painful.

A sting occurs when an insect, such as a bee, wasp or hornet, lands on you and inserts its stinger into your skin. These stingers usually have venom on them, although the effect depends on the insect. For most honey bees, dart venom contains proteins that impact the skin and immune system. This usually causes pain, swelling, redness, itching and pain. For allergy sufferers, the Mayo Clinic says the sting can cause anaphylaxis, a dangerous allergic reaction characterized by flushing, difficulty breathing, swelling, a dangerously low heart rate, and the need for emergency medical attention.

What to do immediately after being bitten? If there are signs of an allergic reaction like hives, difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, mouth, or tongue, seek emergency medical attention immediately, Dr. Malka says. But if you’re not allergic, you can treat a bee sting yourself, says Terez Malka, MDemergency physician and pediatrician at Digital Care Company Health K.

Below, Dr. Malka explains exactly what you should do when a bee stings.

Here’s what to do for a bee sting

Move to a safe place

Make sure you are away from other bees to prevent a swarm from stinging you further. Also, you’ll want to go to a place where you can relax to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. According to the Mayo Clinic, bee allergies are not uncommon and can develop very quickly after being stung. Knowing your allergic status and keeping an EpiPen handy is really important for this reason.

So, while you’re calming down, watch for any signs of a potential allergic reaction. If you or the person stung are allergic to bees, use an EpiPen (if available) and seek emergency care.

Carefully remove the stinger

If the stinger is still present, scrape it out gently using a clean fingernail or gauze, depending on the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC). Using a firm, clean credit card or other small straight edge may also suffice, says Dr. Malka.

However, the CDC and Dr. Malka both advise never to use tweezers to remove a stinger. This is because plucking a stinger can squeeze it out and release more venom into the skin.

Apply a cold compress or ice to the area

Applying a cool compress or ice to the area has many benefits, such as relieving the tingling sensation, helping with swelling, and reducing redness, Dr. Malka says. Ice the area for 10 to 20 minutes, then let the skin rest for a while until it warms up and the swelling returns.

Take over-the-counter medications based on your symptoms

You can also use over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen for pain or swelling and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for itching and swelling, Dr. Malka says. Be sure not to scratch or squeeze the area, as this can increase your risk of infection.

Once you’ve completed these steps, Dr. Malk recommends monitoring your symptoms. Swelling may persist, which is why experts recommend over-the-counter medications. The Mayo Clinic suggests you see a doctor if your bite has not healed after 10 days.

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