Anyone who has ever been stung by a bee or a wasp knows that it is no laughing matter. It is extremely painful, because both bees and wasps insert a venom-laced stinger into the skin. The main difference between hornet, Yellow Jacket (bumblebees), wasp stings and bee stings is that the stinger of the former group is smooth, as a result of which it can retract it from the skin and sting the victim multiple times. In case of bees, the stinger is barbed; hence they stay embedded in the skin.
Most people display a localized reaction to bee sting, which manifests itself in the form of a red, painful bump. Over time the redness may increase, and the area may start itching as well. About 3% of bee sting victims display a moderate allergic reaction. In about 0.8% of bee sting victims, the sufferer may display a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, which may be fatal if no one is at hand to administer a dose of epinephrine (adrenaline).
Symptoms of Bee, Wasp and Hornet Stings
People may have a mild, moderate or a severe reaction to bee, wasp and hornet stings. The type of reaction the person has is dependent upon the following two factors:
- The number of times the victim has been stung.
- The physiology of the person, which will determine the type of reaction the sufferer may have to bee or wasp venom.
Depending upon the type of reaction a person has to the bee or wasp sting, she may display the following symptoms:
- Mild reaction: A mild reaction to a bee or a wasp sting is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Severe pain at the site of the sting. Many people experience a sharp burning sensation.
- A white spot on the puncture wound, surrounded by a hard red bump that looks like a welt.
- Some swelling around the affected area.
Most people recover from a mild reaction within a few hours.
- Moderate reaction: If the sufferer is displaying the following characteristics, then she is suffering from a moderate reaction to bee sting:
- The area becomes extremely red.
- The swelling increases over a couple of days.
A moderate reaction may take up to 10 days to heal, although many people are free from it at about the fifth day. It is best to seek the advice of a doctor because in many cases the severity of the reaction may increase the next time around.
- Severe reaction: In rare cases, the sufferer may display a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis to a bee or a wasp sting. This reaction is life-threatening and it has the following symptoms:
- Skin rashes and itchiness, which can easily translate into hives.
- Swelling of the throat and tongue.
- Laborious breathing.
- Dizziness; sufferers may faint and lose consciousness as well.
- A weak, yet rapid pulse.
- Extreme nausea, which may cause the sufferer to vomit.
People suffering from a severe reaction need immediate medical attention. Doctors may suggest measures such as immunotherapy to prevent such reactions in the future.
Home Remedies to Treat Bee, Wasps & Hornet Stings
Although mild and moderate reactions to a bee, wasp or hornet sting will heal on its own in most cases, it is still extremely painful and there are several home remedies you can try to expedite the healing. Please note that the pain is being caused by the venom associated with the stinger, hence it is absolutely imperative that you remove the stinger and wash the area first with soap and water before applying the remedies.
You can apply a traditional ice pack at the site of the sting for about 20 minutes. The pain and swelling that you are feeling is a form of an allergic reaction, your natural antibodies are identifying the venom as an external threat and is rushing to the area to exterminate it, causing pain and the associated swelling. The cold from the ice pack will constrict your blood vessels, thus reducing the amount of blood and antibodies reaching the site of the sting and thus decreasing the symptoms in the process.
If you do not have an ice pack, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables or you can wrap a few ice cubes in a washcloth and use that instead. Make sure that the ice does not touch your skin directly, as it may damage your epidermis.
If you do not have any ice handy, put some water in the freezer right away. While you are waiting for the water to freeze, you can apply some toothpaste on the affected area. This is because most toothpaste uses peppermint, which contains menthol that cools the area. There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests that the texture and the ‘bite’ of the toothpaste tricks the brain into thinking that the area is being scratched, which is purported to provide some psychological satisfaction.
- Homemade bee sting balm
Although it may sound ironic, but you can easily create an effective treatment that gives you almost immediate relief from the pain caused by a bee or a wasp sting by using beeswax and honey as a couple of its ingredients. The complete list of the ingredients are as follows:
- Beeswax (3 teaspoons)
- Extra virgin coconut oil (1 tablespoon)
- Honey (1/2 teaspoon)
- Lavender essential oil (4 drops)
All of the ingredients mentioned above are essential for fighting off the effects of a bee or a wasp sting. The coconut oil, honey and lavender essential oils have documented anti-bacterial and emollient properties that protects the area from secondary infections. Beeswax is also an emollient, which helps reduce the intensity of the pain.
Once you have gathered the ingredients, you can easily prepare the treatment with the help of the following steps:
- Melt the beeswax and coconut oil together in a pan over an open flame. Make sure that you mix the ingredients thoroughly while you do so.
- Turn off the flame.
- Add the lavender essential oil and the honey and mix them thoroughly as well.
- Cover the pan and let the mixture cool down to room temperature.
Your homemade bee-sting balm is now ready to use! Apply generous amounts of this balm at the site of the sting. Feel free to store the remaining in a dark container for later use!
Besides being a useful ingredient in the homemade bee sting balm, honey’s antibacterial and emollient properties makes it a useful home remedy for bee and wasp stings by its own right. Simply apply some honey on the site of the sting to get some relief from the pain and swelling.
- Lavender essential oil
Just like honey, lavender essential oil is an effective treatment for bee, wasp or hornet sting by itself because of its strong antibacterial properties which will protect the site of the sting from secondary infections.
Usually any essential oil treatment, especially if it is making use of lavender essential oil is applied in a diluted form. However treating bee stings is one of those rare occasions where it is actually used in the undiluted form. However, before you apply this treatment, you need to make sure that you are not allergic or overtly sensitive to lavender essential oil. Aggravating the sting site is probably the worst possible way to find that out!
Simply take one drop of lavender essential oil and apply it to an unblemished part of your skin. If you do not feel a stinging sensation, you can go ahead and apply it on the site of the sting. Otherwise, you would need to use it in a diluted form with the help of a carrier oil.
Simply apply a drop of the neat or diluted lavender essential oil on the site of the sting twice the day the sufferer got stung. Apply another drop the following day.
This is effective for treating stings caused by wasps and hornets. This is because the venom in their stings is alkaline in nature, which can be easily neutralized by the acetic acid in vinegar. As the venom is neutralized, you will get some welcome relief from the pain and the associated swelling.
To apply the treatment, soak a cotton ball in vinegar and apply it on the site of the sting. Use some gauze and medical tapes to hold it in place for at least 15 minutes.
- Baking soda
Sodium bicarbonate, more commonly known as baking soda is effective for treating bee stings. This is because the bee venom is acidic in nature. Baking soda is an alkali, which will neutralize the bee venom, thus providing the sufferer with some relief from the sting.
Simple take a teaspoon of baking soda and add a few drops of water to make a paste. Apply it on the site of the bee sting for at least fifteen minutes. Some of the alkaline mixture of baking soda and water will seep through the puncture wound whereas some of it will also leech through the skin.
Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence suggests that this treatment will not cure the bee sting completely and the aforementioned homemade bee sting balm may need to be applied as an emollient after the baking soda treatment has been washed out.
- Epsom salt
Baking soda is present in almost every kitchen in the planet. However, if you cannot get hold of some for whatever reason, then Epsom salt is a worthy replacement. The treatment needs to be prepared and applied the exact same way as the baking soda treatment.
- Garlic cloves
There is a lot of strong anecdotal evidence that suggests that garlic juice is a highly effective remedy for bee and wasp stings, although there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that.
To check and see whether this treatment works for you or not, simply crush about three garlic cloves with a pestle and mortar and apply that on the affected area for a few hours. Hold the crushed cloves in place with the help of gauze and medical tapes.
Two different species of the same family Plantago major and Plantago lanceolota is known as plantain. The only visible difference between the two species is in the shape of the leaf. In the former the leaves tend to be a bit broad, whereas those in the latter tend to be a bit long. They are common weeds that tend to grow in gardens or even in the cracks of sidewalks. If you do not have any growing in your backyard, then your local greenhouse will probably have some.
The juice from the leaves of plantain is renowned for its emollient properties and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that it can be used to get some relief from bee, hornet or wasp stings. Simply run a bunch of plantain leaves through the food processor to extract the juice and apply it with the help of a cotton swab at the site of the sting throughout the day.