How to Manage Bee Stings with First Aid
From time to time, everybody is faced with the need to know how to address a bee sting with First Aid. Today, I took a dive into bee stings to find out.
So, what should I do first when a bee stings?
Firstly, remove the sting immediately by scraping, plucking or brushing it from the location.
- Wash/disinfect the area (soap and water may suit.)
- Apply ice if needed for swelling/pain.
- Do NOT itch the area. You may apply hydrocortisone cream after washing the sting area.
- Keep a careful eye and ensure the sting doesn’t worsen. If it does, or you’re allergic - seek immediate medical attention. Most resolve on their own.
What Do I Need to Do When Bees Attack?
1. Removing the sting
Immediately remove the sting from the area after being stung, as the venom it holds will continue to leak for a couple of seconds after it enters.
There are a variety of ways you can do this:
- Scraping, plucking the sting out, or simply brushing it away depending on the location. You can use your fingernail/gauze.
- Some also suggest a credit card may be useful for this purpose, to scrape it out.
2. Cleaning the area
Your next step is to wash the sting gently with some soap and water, which will aid in disinfecting it.
If desired, an antibiotic ointment or other disinfectant can be applied, to ensure no infection occurs and bacteria is removed.
3. Apply a cold compress/ice pack
After you’ve been stung, there may be some pain and inflammation, or swelling. You can alleviate this by applying an ice pack or cold compress directly to the site, for about 20 minutes. To prevent icy skin, you can place the pack in a towel/some sort of fabric. This may be repeated if needed for symptom relief every so often (such as each hour - every few hours.)
4. Apply hydrocortisone cream/calming lotion: NO scratching!
Do not scratch the area, tempting as it may be. This may lead to infection.
Itchiness may occur, and if it does resist the urge and instead apply some hydrocortisone cream. Alternative options if you do not have any on hand include a calming lotion (such as calamine).
5. Medication options: pain & inflammation
Painkillers and antihistamine medications can be purchased over the counter and assist in any symptoms you may experience.
- Antihistamine medications can assist with swelling/inflammation: Benadryl, Claritin and many others are available. They will help your immune system wind down. For allergic reactions, you may need your EpiPen.
- Anti inflammatory medications may also help. These include Motrin or Advil. They’re also known as non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (or NSAIDS).
6. Monitor symptoms.
Most bee stings resolve by themselves, but you must seek help immediately if an allergic reaction occurs. If you are allergic to bees, and notice any reaction symptoms developing, call an ambulance.
There are a number of things you should carefully watch out for and act on if they present (see below under doctor section).
If symptoms do not go away within 2 days and you have taken the bee sting first aid steps, seek medical help.
Can I Apply First Aid By Myself?
In the case of a non allergic bee sting without complications, you may self administer First Aid. You can follow the bee sting first aid steps given here by yourself if you are capable (that is to say, not in extreme pain or having severe swelling).
There are a few exceptions, however:
In some cases, such as in the instance of an allergic reaction, you will not be able to self administer First Aid on your own.
- If you are stung in a hard to reach area or you are experiencing swelling, you may want to have somebody assist you.
- If you are having an anaphylactic/allergic reaction, you will need to seek medical attention immediately.
- If you have an Epipen, you must let friends and family know. If you are in critical condition and need help to administer it they can do it for you. If you know you have an allergy to bees, you should ALWAYS carry your EpiPen.
A doctor will likely treat you in a hospital. In very severe cases you may be monitored at intensive care.
Do I Need to See a Doctor After a Bee Sting?
If you know that you have allergies or reactions of any form to bees, it is absolutely critical that you seek medical attention - especially if the reaction seems to be intense, or does not begin to improve/worsens.
Signs of an allergic reaction:
- Any breathing troubles - mild to severe.
- Rashes or hives on the body
- Turning a pale or reddish colour.
- Tongue and throat swelling
- Feeling nauseous or vomiting
- Feeling dizzy
Severe allergic reactions can be very serious.
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Swollen lungs/severe trouble breathing
- Loss of consciousness
In case of a severe reaction, treatment may occur in hospital.
It may likely consist of breathing assistance, and antihistamine, steroid or epinephrine administration. IV Fluids may be given too.
You should immediately ring an ambulance.
If you do not hold any allergies, you likely will not require medical attention for your bee sting unless it gets worse. When proper bee sting first aid steps are administered, a lot of the time the stings will resolve on their own/can be managed with home treatments without seeing a doctor, until they clear up.
- However: if worsening occurs even after taking these bee sting first aid steps, it is highly recommended you seek medical attention.
- If your sting becomes infected, you will likely need medical attention. This is why it’s important to keep checking symptoms over the next few days.
- You may also need medical attention if you were stung 10-20 times or more. This is the case even without an allergic reaction.
- If you were stung inside your mouth/ throat, you should see a doctor and may need to visit the emergency room.
- An eyeball sting may require an eye specialising doctor.
How Can I Protect Myself from Future Attacks?
Wearing protective clothing
One method you may use to prevent future sting attacks is wearing bee protective clothing.
This consists of a set of gear that basically protects all parts of your body
Lower chance of a sting by avoiding brightly coloured clothing
White, pastels or very bright colours may increase the chance of being stung.
Odours: perfume and outdoor cooking.
- Take extra care not to attract insects when cooking outdoors, food odours will draw them.
- Consider not wearing floral perfume/cosmetic products. This will attract bees to you.
Use insect repellent
There are countless forms of insect repellent available on the market, and they will deter bees from stinging you when applied.
You might want to consider wearing insect repellent outdoors, or particularly at times you know you will be in an area with lots of bees.
Steer away from bee infestations/areas
It may seem like a no-brainer, but bee nests can actually be quite common and sometimes certain areas are infested with bees, posing a higher risk of being stung.
To avoid this, you should try to steer clear of any areas you specifically know have a high bee count or are infested. This includes watching out for hives and especially NOT disturbing a hive if you encounter one. You may need to have it removed or look into the safest method of removal, if it is in an inconvenient space.
Are there ways to prevent a reaction if I know I’m allergic to bees? Yes. If you know you are seriously allergic, you can discuss allergy skin testing with your doctor. A medical bracelet/necklace to alert people of your allergy may also be helpful.
There are a few things you can try: like keeping a “bee sting kit” on hand, or discussing venom immunotherapy with your doctor (a treatment that may prevent reactions.)
Are there any other home remedies I can try? Yes! Aside from the already described bee sting first aid steps, you can apply a few things to help heal your sting faster.
- Honey, baking soda paste (mixed with water), and some even suggest toothpaste can help.
- Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, and witch hazel or tea tree oil may also assist.
Bee stings can be painful and unpleasant. However, if you properly follow these bee sting first aid steps, you will ensure the least uncomfortable experience possible: with a smooth treatment and recovery.
Make sure you seek medical help if you’re allergic or the sting hasn’t healed after a few days, and take proper preventative strategies for the future!