Treatment of Bee Stings

Treatment of Bee Stings

Treatment of Bee Stings

If one is stung, the wound can be treated in the following ways:

  • Remove the stinger with all haste, in whatever manner is most convenient. I like scraping across the skin with a credit card to try to remove the stinger. If you see a little black dot in the wound, part of the stinger is still present.
  • Apply a solution of one part meat tenderizer to 4 parts water. Papain, the enzyme in meat tenderizer, breaks down the protein in bee venom responsible for the pain and itching. Don’t leave this on for more than 30 minutes, or it can irritate the skin. If this isn’t available, you might try an antiperspirant. Aluminum chlorohydrate reduces the effect of bee venom, but to a lesser extent.
  • Apply cold. Use ice or cool water for 10 to 30 minutes after the sting. This blunts the body’s allergic response.
  • An antihistamine such as Benadryl, taken by mouth, can give some added relief, and help prevent the reaction from spreading.
  • A shake lotion such as calamine can be helpful. A paste made of baking soda and water can have a similar effect.
  • Topical hydrocortisone can also provide some symptomatic relief.
  • A topical antibiotic ointment can also be used to help prevent infection.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for systemic pain relief.

After a bee sting, different children will have different reactions:

  • Bee stings cause immediate, painful red bumps.
  • In most cases, the pain has largely disappeared within 2 hours, although swelling may not be apparent until the next day.
  • Large local reactions at the site of the sting can start 12 to 36 hours after the initial sting and can persist for up to a week. A physician should be consulted if the reaction continues to spread or there is a systemic reaction.
  • Systemic reactions such as hives, redness, or swelling elsewhere on the body, vomiting, dizziness, hoarseness, thickened speech, or difficulty breathing, should receive prompt medical care from a physician. Also, be sure to see a doctor if there were 10 or more stings, or if one of the stings was inside the nose or mouth, since swelling can interfere with breathing.

A child who has had a systemic reaction to a bee sting (which I can personally relate to) should follow special precautions set forth by his or her pediatrician. This will include carrying injectable epinephrine (which I do).

Although systemic reactions occur in about 3% of children who are stung, and anaphylactic shock can follow as many as 0.8% of bee stings, thankfully only 50 people in the United States are killed by bee stings each year, and only 1 to 2 of these are children. You may want to consider having your child wear a medical alert braclet if they have a significant allergy to bee stings.

Reviewed by: Jori Bogetz, Khanh-Van Le-Bucklin
Last reviewed: September 12, 2010
Dr. Alan Greene

Article written by

Dr. Greene is the founder of DrGreene.com (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

 

Comments

  • Guest

    DO NOT USE meat tenderizer ON A BEE STING…It contains salt and tends to aggravate and cause more pain, (five children aren’t wrong) Obviously the idiot that recommended this has never tried it themselves or has children. Stupid idiots!

    • Alan Greene

      Different people’s skin reacts differently to the same ingredient. I don’t doubt your experience, Phil.

      I have a bee allergy myself and tend to have pretty severe reactions. I’ve used meat tenderizer on my own stings and felt significant quick relief. I first learned about it from an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

      It was also the first home remedy listed by The People’s Pharmacy (by my good friends and colleagues Joe and Terry Graedon). They asked their readers to rank whether or not meat tenderizer in a paste worked for them on a scale of 0 to 5. Out of 64 people who responded, it ranked 4.3 (which means at least 20 people gave it a 5 out of 5), and in the colorful comments most described it as working well for them (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2005/10/18/meat-tenderizer-and-vinegar-fo/).

      A paste made from baking soda could help the pain of stings and would be less likely to irritate – and less likely to make as big a difference.

      • Phill Grace

        I did a little follow up, there are meat tenderizers that do not contain salt, and are recommended best. That being said…finding a meat tenderizer without salt…well that’s another battle.

  • Craig

    Meat tenderizer with salt worked for me. I used sting wipes prior and they were ineffective. The itch was intense. Sorry about your kids. I guess everyone reacts differently.