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.

Medical Review on: September 12, 2010
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

I’m new to beekeeping since April when I trapped my first swarm. Well since then I have been suffering the occasional sting with pretty bad swelling, but recently I was stung 4 times and I was looking for quick relief so after having read about the baking soda paste I decided I’d try mixing it with a bit of honey (ironically) to make a gooey paste that would last longer on my skin. Well it worked amazing for me so I highly recommend it to anyone for any kind of stings.

Great tip! Thanks so much.

If anyone else tries it, please let us know if it works for you.

very nice post, i certainly love this website, keep on it

I’am allergic to many things including bees.
I was just recently informed by my Doctor to use a “Salt” compress when I get stung, so obviously salt is a good thing. The salt draws out the toxin immediately. Follow with Benadryl.

I was very impressed with this article. Thank you. I am highly allergic to bees and have had anaphylaxis more than once. I was once stung on the beach near our home when I stepped on a bee. I immediately put my foot in the ocean. Almost instantly the pain was gone. It removed the stinger and I experienced none of the alkergic reactions I usually do. Two weeks ago, I was stung 5 times by I think a yellow jacket wasp. I couldn’t get him off my big toe. It hurt very badly and I could feel my toe locking up. I had my husband run to the coulter and they got lots of salt which I mixed with water and put my toe in the salt water. We did head immediately our because I forgot my epi pen. I had pain in the foot and about half way up the calf, but even the table salt helped. No epi pen was needed and an Epsom salt soak took our the stinger. For pain I put on lavender and oregano oil in a coconut oil carrier. It stopped the pain and during the night I was able to sleep soundly. I continued the essential oil application as well as drinking a few drops of both oils and was safe again!

My point… The salt saved the day. If I could, I would bottle the ocean water! Thanks for any recommendations for the stings! I love the bees, yet for some strange reason, they always attack me!

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.

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!

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 (

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.