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How to treat a bee sting

Updated: Feb 12, 2019

It can happen in an instant. One minute the kids are playing happily in the yard; the next minute someone is screaming and crying hysterically. Knowing how to soothe a bee sting is an essential 'Dad skill,' and the time to learn it is not when you're kid is wailing at the top of their lungs. It's important to know what to do - and what not to do - before that moment arrives.

  1. Get the stinger out. The longer the stinger stays in the skin, the more venom it releases. More venom means more pain and suffering. If the stinger is still in the skin, remove it by scraping over it with your fingernail, a credit card, or a piece of gauze. DO NOT use a tweezers. Squeezing the stinger can cause it to release more venom.

  2. Wash the area with soap and water.

  3. Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling. If the swelling spreads to other parts of the body, go to the emergency room immediately. It could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

  4. If you child is experiencing difficulty breathing, hives, nausea, or dizziness; go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.

  5. Consider over-the-counter pain medication if discomfort continues. Pain killers such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen) can help your child manage the pain, just be sure to follow the instructions.

  6. Keep an eye on your child for the next few hours to be sure that they don't experience any delayed symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, hives, nausea, or dizziness. If they do begin presenting any of these symptoms, go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1 immediately.

In addition, there are several home remedies that you can concoct to help neutralize the venom and reduce pain. They include:

Honey: Put a small dab of honey over the sting site and cover with a bandage for up to an hour.

Baking soda: Mix with water to form a thick paste and then apply to the sting site.

Apple cider vinegar: (Known to neutralize venom) Soak a piece of gauze or a bandage in apple cider vinegar and then apply to the sting site.

Toothpaste: Dab a bit on the sting site

Meat tenderizer: Make a solution with the meat tenderizer that is 1 part meat tenderizer and 4 parts water. Apply to the sting site for up to 30 minutes. (Meat tenderizer contains an enzyme called papain that will help break down the protein that causes pain and itching.)

Witch hazel: Splash onto a clean cloth or napkin and apply directly to the sting site.

Standard symptoms for a bee sting include temporary sharp pain, mild swelling, redness, warmth, and itching at the sting site. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, there is generally no cause for alarm. However, if your child is allergic to bees, one single sting can be life threatening.

Honeybees die after they sting you, but all other stinging insects don't; and they can potentially sting you multiple times.


American Academy of Dermatology: "How to Treat a Bee Sting"

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