Ways to treat a bee or wasp sting

Bee and wasp stings are, at best, a painful annoyance that come with being in the great outdoors. At worst, they’re a life-threatening affliction that require immediate medical assistance. As much as 5–7.5% of the population will suffer a serious allergic reaction to a sting. In the most severe cases, the course of action should be to call the emergency services. As such, this article will focus on less serious reactions. Read on for our guide to wasp and bee sting treatment.

What do stings look like?

The key difference between bee and wasp stings is that bee stings detach from their body and get stuck in your skin. As a result, bees can only sting you once. Wasp stings, on the other hand, do not detach from their body, meaning they can sting you over and over again. This will only happen if they feel really threatened or if you are continuously antagonising them.

For most stings, the symptoms will include a sharp pain at the site of the sting, as well as redness, welting, and some swelling around the area. More serious reactions will result in more redness and swelling that could spread over the days following the sting.

Those with an extreme allergic reaction to the sting will suffer from anaphylactic shock. The symptoms include light-headedness, breathing difficulties, a higher heart rate, sweating, and perhaps even loss of consciousness.

How to treat a sting

First of all, if you have been stung by a bee, you’ll need to remove the sting as soon as possible. Be careful to pull it out smoothly so as not to aggravate the existing pierced skin. Also, be mindful not to touch the venom sack that will likely be attached to the stinger – touching the sack will release more venom and worsen the wound. Do so using something with a hard, blunt edge, such as a credit card or a fingernail, but avoid squeezing the sting as this is likely to spread the venom further.

Minor reactions:

Once the sting has been removed, wash the injury and surrounding area with water and soap. The aim of this is to remove as much venom as possible. Then apply ice (or something cold that you have to hand) to the area, compress it, and elevate it if possible.

Keep the area clean until the symptoms subside and avoid scratching or rubbing the area. It will probably be very itchy for the next day or so, but scratching the area will only serve to make it worse and lengthen the recovery period. Some people say that applying aloe vera to the area can ease pain and aggravation. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory which can help reduce swelling and risk of infection.

More serious reactions:

For more serious reactions, the above steps still apply. However, additional treatment may be needed to reduce pain and discomfort. For instance, taking painkillers such as ibuprofen may be necessary in cases with extreme pain. You may also need to use some creams or lotions.

Using hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion can help to reduce the severity of itchiness, redness, and swelling. Taking an antihistamine may also be helpful in cases of a serious allergic reaction to the sting.

Anaphylactic shock

If you suffer an anaphylactic shock, emergency services should be called immediately. An anaphylactic shock can cause a person to fall unconscious or have trouble breathing, and therefore, they may require CPR. If the victim has epinephrine, you may need to administer it (providing you know how to do so correctly). It’s best to leave this to medical professionals if you haven’t done this before. A person may also require oxygen and intravenous antihistamines to reduce swelling of airways and improve breathing.

These steps will usually be performed by the emergency services, but it’s good to be aware of what is needed should you or someone you know experience anaphylactic shock.

In general, suffering an anaphylactic shock is highly unlikely. Most bee and wasp stings will be far less severe and easily manageable. In fact, the average adult could withstand 1000 bee stings at once and survive, so they’re usually not much cause for concern.

If you see many bees or wasps in or around your home, or get stung in your home, there may be a hive or nest nearby. In this case, get in touch with us or give us a call on 020 3405 5000. Our pest control experts will be able to safely and quickly remove the nest and make your home safe again. For more information on bees and wasps, check out our dedicated guide on our blog.