How to Treat Bee, Wasp and Ant Stings

Bees, ants and many types of wasps belong to the same scientific family, called Hymenoptera. In isolated cases, stings from them can cause anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and life-threatening allergic reaction. If you are stung and have a known allergy, seek medical attention immediately. You must also seek medical attention if you show sudden signs of anaphylaxis, such as swelling or difficulty breathing.

If you are not allergic to insect stings, you must still suffer from the pain and itchiness they cause. Such stings cause multiple types of discomfort. First, they pierce your skin, causing immediate pain. They can also quickly become red or swollen and tender to the touch. Such stings also typically introduce venom into your body, which creates additional ongoing pain. There are multiple ways to relieve those symptoms. Many of those methods are home remedies you can perform using items you have on hand already. Here is how to treat bee, wasp and ant stings at home easily.

Remove Yourself from the Situation and Remove Stingers Immediately

Ants, bees and wasps live in hives or nests. Hundreds of insects can live in a single hive. Therefore, the first step you must take before treating stings is to remove yourself from the situation. Get inside or to another safe place right away. Then, determine if you need to remove the stingers.

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Ants and wasps typically retain their stingers. Therefore, you can be stung by a single ant or wasp multiple times. Many types of bees can only sting you once. When they do, they leave their stingers embedded in your skin. The stingers have venom sacs attached to them. The venom sacs continue to pump venom into your body for a short time after you get stung, so it is important to remove stingers quickly.

Removing bee stingers can be difficult because they are quite small. You must remove them quickly, before the venom is all deposited. Additionally, you need to avoid squeezing the venom sacs when gripping the stingers. Doing so pushes more venom into your body. Some of the most popular methods for removing stingers include:

  • Scraping the edge of a credit card slowly and gently across your skin.
  • Using tweezers while being careful not to squeeze the venom sacs.
  • Removing them with your fingernails in the absence of other available tools.

Minimize Swelling Caused by the Stings with Elevation and Ice

After the stingers are removed, the next step is to immediately control the swelling caused by the stings. Remove any jewelry you are wearing quickly because it could restrict blood flow if swelling occurs. It may also be difficult to remove as swelling increases. If your stings are located on a limb, elevate it to reduce swelling risks.

No matter where your stings are located, clean the area with cool water. Doing so helps get rid of any remaining venom on the surface of your skin. Then, apply ice to the area right away, which reduces swelling. Use it on the area around the sting for no longer than 20 minutes each hour until the pain and swelling subside.

When icing the stings, wrap the ice in a washcloth or towel to avoid direct contact with the skin. If ice is unavailable, substitute a bag of frozen vegetables. Alternatively, soak a cloth in cool water and apply it to your skin, as needed. The ice or cool compresses can also reduce pain and numb the area temporarily to keep you comfortable.

Use Honey to Treat Your Stings

You probably have honey in your kitchen cabinet. It might sound strange, but honey has healing properties you can use to treat bee, wasp and ant stings, as well as other ailments. The healing properties of honey have been used for centuries, most famously by the Egyptians who used it to treat many types of wounds.

Honey has natural antibacterial properties that may protect your skin while your stings heal. However, types of honey vary. Dark honey is generally better for bacteria control than light colored honey. Some types of honey, including manuka honey, are known for their specific medical properties. In fact, in 2007 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Medihoney for wound treatment.

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When treating stings with honey, you can also reap other rewards. For example, honey naturally reduces inflammation. Therefore, it may reduce swelling that occurs after you are stung. However, honey can also have potential drawbacks. For example, it is sticky, so use a small amount to avoid discomfort. Also, it may attract more bees. Therefore, you must be careful not to go outside while you have it on your skin.

Household Goods to Use and Avoid When Treating Stings

You may have some medications on hand that can alleviate insect sting discomfort. For example, the best way to reduce the itchiness associated with insect stings at home is to take an over-the-counter antihistamine. For pain relief, taking any common pain relief medication, such as acetaminophen, is a good option. When those medications are unavailable, certain other household goods may provide relief. Among the commonly used household goods for treating stings are:

  • Essential
  • Aloe
  • Toothpaste.

Some of those potential remedies can only treat specific symptoms. For example, certain essential oils have known antibacterial properties. Therefore, they may help your stings heal faster. However, they do not alleviate pain, so you may need to combine them with other treatments. Also, not all essential oils have the same properties. Make sure to use antibacterial essential oils, such as witch hazel or tea tree oil.

There are also several household goods recommended as bee and ant sting treatments that are controversial. One is the application of wet aspirin tablets to your sting sites. Although using this treatment does not appear to do any harm, a 2003 study indicated it does not have any positive affect on healing. It can also make your sting sites redder temporarily. Other controversial remedies to avoid or use with care include the application of apple cider vinegar and baking soda to your sting sites. The alkaline properties of the baking soda and acidic properties of the vinegar can cause skin damage when you do not apply them properly.

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