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With spring and summer comes, the blooming of beautiful flowers.  Those beautiful flowers bring with them pesky insects, unfortunately. But, if we want honey, we must deal with those bees. I am not sure what good wasps are, but I am sure in the chain of life – they must serve some purpose!

So, what do you do when you are stung? What are some home remedies to help with pain and swelling? What dangerous side effects should you watch for with bee and wasp stings?

What Happens When You Are Stung?

Bees and wasps inject venom by stinging unlucky people. Sometimes-especially with bees-the stinger may be left in the skin. The venom is poisonous and may cause direct injury to the human body. This injury is usually confined to the areas close to the sting or stings.

  • Allergic reaction:The vast majority of serious medical problems and deaths result from an allergic reaction. This happens in certain people whose immune systems are overly sensitive (or allergic) to the venom. When they get stung, their body may overreact to the venom, and an allergic reaction may happen throughout their body. These people are frequently described as being allergic to specific insect stings.
    • In the U.S., about 40 deaths are reported each year from insect venom anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction). These fatal allergic reactions frequently, but not always, occur in people who have had a previous allergic reaction to the same type of insect.
    • Although multiple stings increase the potential danger in allergic cases, a serious or even fatal allergic reaction can (and does) occur from a single sting in a person with no known prior allergic reaction.
    • The vast majority of serious and fatal allergic reactions from stings cause a significant and obvious allergic reaction within an hour of being stung. Most deaths from stings occur within the first hour. Immediate emergency medical care is critical in known or suspected allergic reactions after an insect sting. In rare cases, serious or even fatal allergic reactions may not happen for up to four or more hours after an insect sting.

What To Do When Stung:

First, inspect the area around the bee sting and remove the stinger IMMEDIATELY.

Note that wasps, hornets and yellow jackets have stingers that are smooth and saber-like, and therefore cannot become imbedded – unlike the common barbed honeybee stinger, which remains inside the skin.

NEVER pull the stinger out with tweezers or by squeezing. Simply scrape it away with a flat stick (a credit card works best) until all traces of the bee stinger are removed.

When Is A Sting An Emergency?

Note: Severe pain, large amount of swelling, breathing problems, dizziness, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing are major symptoms that occur in those who suffer from severe allergic reactions to bee stings. If this is the case, forgo any homemade treatments and CALL 911 – SEEK IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE, especially if a bee attack results in stings numbering 10 more.

Home Remedies For Bee and Wasp Stings:

Traditional remedies for bee or wasp stings include salt, baking soda, vinegar, tobacco, meat tenderizer, toothpaste, common clay, garlic, onions, or even application of copper pennies. Here are some of the most popular:

  • Vinegar – The remedy used by even some beekeepers to reduce pain and swelling. Apply with a cotton swab and dab around the area of the sting for quick relief.
  • Baking soda – The classic cure-all for pain and itch can be applied by simply mixing 3 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of water until a thick paste forms, and apply.
  • Onion – The homemade cure with the most anecdotal evidence for fighting off the discomfort of insect stings. Simply cut a thin slice and hold it to the sting for several minutes, or apply with masking or surgical tape.
  • Antiperspirant – A common ingredient in most antiperspirants is aluminum chlorohydrate, which is believed to reduce the effect of bee venom.
  • Unseasoned meat tenderizer – The remedy often recommended for jellyfish stings also seems to work for bee and wasp stings in the same way. The secret ingredient? Papain, which helps to break down the protein found in bee and wasp venom.
  • Copper coins – Also mentioned in Chinese medicine folklore, this home remedy is said to eliminate pain and swelling around the area of sting with one application. Just make sure you clean the coin thoroughly before applying to the affected area. Or keep it on overnight with surgical or adhesive tape.
  • Pain relievers – Simple aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen will help keep the pain to manageable levels and help you get some sleep.
  • Antihistamine – Using Zyrtec, Claritin or Benadryl will also help with site swelling and itching at the site. Take an appropriate dose as recommended on the medication packaging.

How To Prevent Bee and Wasp Stings:

Lighten up – A common rule of thumb for not attracting bees or wasps is to wear light-colored clothing, which generally attracts fewer stinging insects than does dark clothing.

Skip the perfume – Bees and wasps naturally are attracted to floral smells, so don’t overdo perfumes or strong smelling colognes, aftershave, hair spray or suntan lotions.

Dietary zinc – Whether taken as a supplement or consumed via foods high in zinc, this preventative is recommended by some medical nutritionists as the secret to avoiding bee and other insect stings altogether. The notion that zinc alters body odor may be the key.

So, we all know the old saying – “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them”. Simply knowing what to do if you or your loved one is stung by a bee or wasp is most important. Don’t let it hamper your summertime activities, just be prepared!