How to Treat a Bee Sting (2023)

Pain and other symptoms of a bee sting can worsen if you don't work to get the stinger out quickly after you have been bitten. As long as the stinger is in your skin, venom from the attached venom sac will continue to be injected into your body.

This can also increase the chances of an allergic reaction.

This article will go over how to remove a bee stinger and how to treat a bee sting. You will also learn the normal reactions to a bee sting and the signs of a more serious reaction that needs emergency medical care.

How to Treat a Bee Sting (1)

Here's What Happens When You Get Stung by a Bee

What's the Best Way to Remove a Bee Stinger?

There's some disagreement about the best way to remove a bee stinger. Some people say you have to scrape it to avoid squeezing more venom into the body. Others say that it's OK to "grab and pull" on the stinger to get it out.

Grabbing and pulling on a stinger might squeeze more venom out of the sac. While some experts advise that you don't pinch the stinger, there hasn't been a lot of scientific study on the best way to remove a bee stinger.

One thing that experts do agree on is that if you get stung you need to get the stinger out as fast as possible. Speed is more important than the method you use.

How to Remove a Bee Stinger

When you get stung by a bee, you might feel shocked and panicked by the suddenness of it. Try to stay calm and follow the three steps for removing the stinger.

Look at the Sting

After you get stung, look at the sting closely. It's normal to have a red bump with a black dot in the center. If there's a small, dark strand sticking out, it's likely the stinger. You might see a bulbous tip on the top of the strand, which is the venom sac.

If you don't see the stinger, you might worry that it's stuck under your skin. However, this is not likely because the barbed shape of the stinger makes it hard for it to get through the skin.

A stinger is also a bee's "last line of defense"—once it's used, the bee dies.

If you're looking at the place where you got stung and you see no sign of a stinger, try to relax. There probably isn't one, and you were stung by an insect that doesn't leave a stinger behind.

Do Insect Stings Cause Allergic Reactions?

Pull the Skin Tight

If you see the stinger, pull the skin around it right so you can get a better look. A taut surface also will make it easier to remove the stinger.

Scrape or Pull the Stinger

Once you've found the stinger, try scraping it off with your fingernail or the edge of a credit card, if you have one handy. If you can't get to the stinger, a pair of tweezers may help you grasp it.

What If I Can't Get the Stinger Out?

If part or all of a stinger gets stuck under your skin, it will probably work its way out in a few days, like a splinter would. If the swelling does not go down, you'll need to see a provider and make sure it's not infected.

Normal Reactions to Bee Stings

As you're working on getting the stinger out, you also need to be aware of how you're feeling. If you get stung by a bee, the skin where you got stung will be affected. Normal reactions to a bee sting include:

(Video) There's A Better Way To Treat A Bee Sting | Better | NBC News

  • Instant, intense pain where you got stung
  • Redness where you got stung
  • Itchiness where you got stung
  • Swelling where you got stung

While unpleasant, these symptoms are normal. However, there are also signs of a potentially serious, even life-threatening, reaction to a bee sting that you should watch for.

What If I'm Stung More Than Once?

If you get multiple stings, you'll have more venom pumped into your body. This makes it more likely that you'll have a serious reaction.

If you are stung more than once and have these symptoms, you need to seek medical care right away:

  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Seizures

Signs of a Serious Reactions to a Bee Sting

If you or someone around you gets stung by a bee and has signs of a severe reaction, you need to call 911. People who are allergic to bee stings can go into anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Signs of a serious reaction to a bee sting include:

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue,and/or throat
  • Shortness of breath,wheezing, and/or coughing
  • Full-body itchiness
  • Hivesor swelling beyond the area that they got stung
  • Reddening of the skin (flushing)
  • Runny nose, sneezing,orpostnasal drip(mucus in the throat)
  • Itchy,watery eyes
  • Stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting,and/or diarrhea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Highheart rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Passing out (fainting)
  • Feeling panicky or having asense of impending doom
  • Ametallic tastein the mouth

Usually, you won't know if you're allergic to bee stings until you get stung and have a reaction. Once you learn that you're allergic to bee stings, you should always carry epinephrine (EpiPen). If you are stung, an EpiPen could save your life.

Why Bee Stings Cause Swelling

Treating a Bee Sting

Once the stinger is out and you know you're not having a severe reaction, here are the next steps for treating the bee sting:

  • Wash the area with antibacterial soap and water
  • Apply a cold compress to help reduce inflammation
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (like Advil or Aleve)

How to Treat Bee Stings

Home Remedies for Bee Stings

Some people claim that home remedies can ease the pain, itching, and swelling of a bee sting. While they might not hurt to try, these methods are not backed up by science.

  • Apple cider vinegar: The theory is that vinegar neutralizes bee sting venom and helps reduce swelling. Try soaking a washcloth in vinegar and placing it on the sting for 15 minutes.
  • Baking soda: A baking soda paste (1/4 cup baking soda mixed with 1 or 2 tablespoons of water) might help neutralize the sting and reduce inflammation.
  • Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream: These creams have long been used to treat itching from different causes, including insect stings.
  • Honey: Honey has long been used to help with wounds. Ironically, it might help reduce the swelling from bee stings. It's also said to kill germs and speed up healing. Apply just a little honey to the skin where you got stung.
  • Toothpaste: Some people claim that toothpaste can neutralize bee venom. Try dabbing some on the spot where you got stung.
  • Topical pain creams: Some products that you put on your skin (topical) are marketed specifically for bee stings while others are just for relieving pain.

How to Figure Out What Stung or Bit You

How Can I Tell What Stung Me?

Lots of insects can sting, but not all of them will leave a stinger behind when they do. If you get stung and see a stinger, it means you got stung by a honey bee. Specifically, it means that you got stung by a female honey bee.

While honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets all come from the same family of insects (hymenoptera), and they all sting, only honey bees leave a stinger behind.

The stings from these insects are similar. Unless there's a stinger left behind, you may not know which one stung you.

(Video) How do you treat a bee sting?

Since most of these insects do not lose their stinger when they sting, they can sting you more than once. Some wasps can bite as well as sing, and their bite can be very painful.

TYPELEAVE STINGER?MULTIPLE STINGS?AGGRESSIVE?
Honey beesYesNoNo
BumblebeesNoYesNo
WaspsNoYesYes
YellowjacketsNoYesYes
HornetsNoYesYes

What to Do If You're Stung by a Yellow Jacket

Summary

If you're stung by a bee, you need to get the stinger out quickly to make sure more venom is not pumped into your body. The longer the stinger is in, the more likely it is that you'll have a reaction.

Once the stinger is out (or if there is no stinger), you can start treating the sting. Keep the area clean and take OTC pain relievers if it hurts. If the swelling isn't getting better in a few days, have your provider take a look at it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens if you don’t remove a bee stinger?

    You will likely experience worsening bee sting symptoms. Not taking the stinger out can also lead to an infection and increase your risk of an allergic reaction.

  • Which is worse, a bee sting or wasp sting?

    It depends on how your body reacts to the sting. Both stings release venom that causes swelling and pain, and both can causesevere reactions, including anaphylaxis.

    Learn More:What to Do If You Get Stung by a Wasp

  • What is a bee stinger called?

    The bee's stinger is an ovipositor. It's part of a female bee's reproductive system. The queen bee lays eggs through her ovipositor and can also sting with it. Female worker bees do not lay eggs, so they can only use their ovipositor to sting.

    (Video) How to treat a bee sting

  • What can help draw out a bee stinger?

    Some people say that home remedies like baking soda and water or bentonite clay may help draw out a bee stinger, but these aren't proven. Your body will usually push a stinger out of your skin on its own in a day or two without any intervention.

  • How do you know if a bee stinger is still in you?

    Usually, you'll be able to see the stinger. It will look like a tiny black spot just under your skin. The place where you got stung may also keep hurting or itch if you didn't get the stinger out.

Can Insect Stings Cause Bruises?

5 Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Lee JA, Singletary E, Charlton N. Methods of honey bee stinger removal: A systematic review of the literature.Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8078. doi:10.7759/cureus.8078

  2. PerfectBee. The anatomy of bees.

    (Video) First Aid for a Bee Sting

  3. National Capital Poison Center: Poison Control. Bee stings: Is it an allergic reaction?

  4. Saikaly SK, Khachemoune A. Honey and wound healing: An update. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2017;18(2):237-251. doi:10.1007/s40257-016-0247-8

  5. American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Insect sting allergy.

How to Treat a Bee Sting (2)

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.

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FAQs

How do you treat a bee sting? ›

Honey bee stings can be painful, but discomfort is usually temporary. If a bee stings you, try to remain calm, and remove the stinger promptly. Clean with soap and water, and use ice to reduce the swelling.

What do you put on a bee sting to make it feel better? ›

People can usually manage their bee sting symptoms using over-the-counter creams and oral medications, including: hydrocortisone creams, which can help reduce redness, itching, swelling, and pain. oral antihistamines, which can help reduce itching and redness.

How do you treat a bee sting after 24 hours? ›

Persistent swelling: 24 hours or more

If a person's symptoms are worsening or if the person is showing any signs of anaphylaxis, they should seek immediate medical attention. People can treat swelling at home by: taking OTC anti-inflammatory drugs. taking antihistamines to reduce the swelling.

How will you treat a bee sting Class 7? ›

The remedy is to apply a weak acid, such as vinegar, to the wound. The acid neutralises the alkaline solution and soothes the pain.

Why should a bee sting be treated with a base class 7? ›

Bee sting venom is acidic and so its effects can be neutralised with bicarbonate of soda or alkali and this reaction reduces the pain.

Does vinegar help bee stings? ›

Like baking soda and toothpaste, apple cider vinegar has been known to help neutralize bee venom and ease the swelling and pain. Pour apple cider vinegar into a basin and soak the affected area for at least 15 minutes.

How long does it take for bee venom to get out of your system? ›

The faster they get medical help, the better the chance for recovery. The chances of future total body reactions increase when local reactions become more and more severe. People who are not allergic to bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets usually get better within 1 week.

Does toothpaste help bee stings? ›

The mint in toothpaste offers a soothing feeling to the sting. Leave it on the affected area for 20 minutes. Then wash with warm water. Luckily, a bee sting won't send you to the emergency room (unless you're allergic of course).

How do you know if the stinger is still in? ›

How do you know if a bee stinger is still in you? Usually, you'll be able to see the stinger. It will look like a tiny black spot just under your skin. The place where you got stung may also keep hurting or itch if you didn't get the stinger out.

Do Stingers come out on their own? ›

Wasps and many bees can sting more than once because they are able to pull out their stinger without injuring themselves. Only honeybees have special hooks on their stinger that keep the stinger in the skin after a person is stung. The stinger gets torn out of the bee's body as it tries to fly away.

Why does my bee sting still hurt after 2 days? ›

A local reaction can produce very uncomfortable pain, itching, and swelling. Some of this swelling can be delayed, increasing over 24 to 48 hours. It may take 3 to 10 days for these symptoms to resolve. Pay close attention to your body's responses and even write down what you experience.

Can bee stings be treated at home Class 7? ›

An acidic substance like baking soda can be used to treat a bee sting. Q. A first-aid manual suggests that vinegar should be used to treat wasp stings and baking soda for bee stings.

How will you treat yourself when stung by a honey bee class 10? ›

These include: i) Honey- helps with pain and itching by applying it in a small amount on the area affected. ii) Baking soda- a paste of baking soda and water can help neutralize bee venom and reduce itching. iii) Apple cider vinegar- vinegar is known to neutralize a bee venom.

Can bee sting be treated at home how Brainly? ›

Answer: A bee sting can be cured immediately at home by applying calamine solution or baking soda because bee sting contains formic acid and calamine solution and baking soda is a base. Hence the two react with each other to neutralize each other and give instant relief from the pain.

What is the first step when treating a bee sting? ›

To treat a sting from a bee, wasp, or hornet, dermatologists recommend the following tips:
  1. Stay calm. ...
  2. Remove the stinger. ...
  3. Wash the sting with soap and water.
  4. Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling. ...
  5. Consider taking over-the-counter pain medication.

What is the first action to take with a bee sting? ›

First aid for bee stings

Remove the sting by sliding or scraping your fingernail across it, rather than pulling at it. Wash the area and apply a cold pack to reduce the swelling.

What is the way to reduce pain cause by the sting of a bee? ›

Bee sting remedies
  1. Apply ice or a cold compress at the sting site for about 20 minutes every hour to ease pain and reduce swelling. ...
  2. Use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to help reduce itchiness at the site.
  3. An over-the-counter antihistamine like Zyrtec or Claritin can also reduce itchiness.
16 Jun 2021

Does baking soda help a bee sting? ›

To help reduce the pain and itching, consider the following: Apply a paste of baking soda and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes. Apply a paste of nonseasoned meat tenderizer and water and leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.

Does Windex help bee stings? ›

Applying it liberally coats the sting area, helps remove the stinger, reduces swelling and provides quick relief from stinging pain. Windex — Spray this window cleaner on bee stings to fend off pain. The ammonia in this product neutralizes bee venom, reduces swelling and its mild soap disinfects the sting site.

What draws bee venom out? ›

3) Baking Soda—Mixed with water, this paste will draw out the venom. 4) Apple Cider Vinegar—This will reduce pain and minimize swelling also helping to draw out the venom.

Do bee stings get worse over time? ›

You probably won't have a severe allergic reaction the first time you are stung. But even if your first reaction to a sting is mild, allergic reactions can get worse with each sting. Your next reaction may be more severe or even deadly.

When should you go to the hospital for a bee sting? ›

In most cases, bee stings don't require a visit to your doctor. In more-severe cases, you'll need immediate care. Call 911 or other emergency services if you're having a serious reaction to a bee sting that suggests anaphylaxis, even if it's just one or two signs or symptoms.

Will rubbing alcohol help a bee sting? ›

Home remedies for bee stings

Although they're not likely to do any harm. Rubbing alcohol may help keep the area clean and help prevent infection. But the rubbing alcohol does not help the sting itself get better.

What pulls a stinger out? ›

To remove a stinger, scrape the back of a knife or other straight-edged object across the stinger. Do not use tweezers since it may squeeze the venom sac and increase the amount of venom released into the wound. Next wash the site thoroughly with soap and water.

How long should bee sting hurt? ›

Severe pain or burning at the site lasts 1 to 2 hours. Normal swelling from venom can increase for 48 hours after the sting. The redness can last 3 days. The swelling can last 7 days.

Does a bee leave its stinger in you? ›

Bees leave a barbed stinger behind after they sting, along with part of their digestive and nervous system. However, wasps and hornets have a smooth stinger. This means they do not lose it when they sting someone.

What does an infected bee sting look like? ›

It will start to look and feel worse. “You can get redness and swelling,” Dr. Wright explains. “It can also feel warm or tender to touch, and if your infection is advancing, you could even get pus in the area.” Other symptoms include redness that spreads on the skin, a fever and chills, or increased pain.

How long do Stingers last for? ›

They usually last seconds to minutes, but in some cases they can last hours, days, or even longer. The most common symptoms of a burner or stinger include: A burning or electric shock sensation. Arm numbness and weakness immediately following the injury.

How long do Stingers take to heal? ›

The severity of stingers is determined by how long the symptoms last. Grade 1 is full recovery within two weeks. Grade 2 is symptoms for more than two weeks and sometimes not complete recovery. Grade 3 is symptoms for at least one year and little to no recovery.

Are bee stings good for you? ›

Bee venom has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit the health of your skin and immune system. It may also improve certain medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain.

Can a bee sting get worse the second day? ›

Redness, pain, and swelling can last up to seven days after the incident. This is for someone not allergic to bee stings. If the symptoms seem to get worse after several days, see a doctor. Anaphylactic reaction to a bee sting can start within two hours of the incident and rapidly progress.

Why is my bee sting so swollen? ›

A normal reaction sets off pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site. A large local reaction causes swelling that extends beyond the sting site. For example, a person stung on the ankle may have swelling of the entire leg. While it often looks alarming, it's usually no more serious than a normal reaction.

How long does it take for a bee sting to clear up? ›

Severe pain or burning at the site lasts 1 to 2 hours. Normal swelling from venom can increase for 48 hours after the sting. The redness can last 3 days. The swelling can last 7 days.

How long does bee stings stay for? ›

Moderate reactions tend to resolve over five to 10 days. Having a moderate reaction doesn't mean you'll have a severe allergic reaction the next time you're stung. But some people develop similar moderate reactions each time they're stung.

When should I be concerned about a bee sting? ›

Localized pain, itching, swelling and redness are common symptoms of an insect sting that can be treated at home. “But if the affected area spreads rapidly or if there are breathing problems or dizziness, it is something that needs immediate medical attention,” Dr. Afaneh says.

How do you know if a bee stinger is still in you? ›

How do you know if a bee stinger is still in you? Usually, you'll be able to see the stinger. It will look like a tiny black spot just under your skin. The place where you got stung may also keep hurting or itch if you didn't get the stinger out.

Do Stingers come out on their own? ›

Wasps and many bees can sting more than once because they are able to pull out their stinger without injuring themselves. Only honeybees have special hooks on their stinger that keep the stinger in the skin after a person is stung. The stinger gets torn out of the bee's body as it tries to fly away.

Should a bee sting hurt days later? ›

A local reaction can produce very uncomfortable pain, itching, and swelling. Some of this swelling can be delayed, increasing over 24 to 48 hours. It may take 3 to 10 days for these symptoms to resolve. Pay close attention to your body's responses and even write down what you experience.

Why is my bee sting still hurting? ›

As long as you're not allergic to bee venom, your immune system will react to the sting by sending fluids there to flush out the melittin, causing swelling and redness. The pain may last several days, but can be soothed with a cold compress or an antihistamine.

Which is worse bee or wasp sting? ›

Bees will leave a barbed stinger behind. Wasps, on the other hand, have a smooth stinger they can use more than once.” Dr. Kuhn added that you're more likely to have a severe reaction from a bee sting because bees have a more complex venom.

What happens to the bee after it stings you? ›

When a female honey bee stings a person, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out, but rather leaves behind not only the stinger, but also part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the honey bee.

How long after a bee sting can you react? ›

Sometimes you may not experience a reaction until 4 hours or longer after the sting occurs. At that point you may begin to experience hives, fever, joint pain, swelling, and headache. Allergic reaction. An allergic reaction can occur in just minutes up to several hours after the sting.

Do bee sting reactions get worse? ›

You probably won't have a severe allergic reaction the first time you are stung. But even if your first reaction to a sting is mild, allergic reactions can get worse with each sting. Your next reaction may be more severe or even deadly.

Can a bee sting without losing its stinger? ›

When a honeybee stings, it dies a gruesome death. The bee's stinger is structured in such a way that once it punctures human skin, the bee can't yank it out without self-amputating.

What will draw out a stinger? ›

To remove a stinger, scrape the back of a knife or other straight-edged object across the stinger. Do not use tweezers since it may squeeze the venom sac and increase the amount of venom released into the wound. Next wash the site thoroughly with soap and water.

What does an infected bee sting look like? ›

It will start to look and feel worse. “You can get redness and swelling,” Dr. Wright explains. “It can also feel warm or tender to touch, and if your infection is advancing, you could even get pus in the area.” Other symptoms include redness that spreads on the skin, a fever and chills, or increased pain.

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