What to do after a bee sting ?

This article explains various treatments which help to relieve pain, swelling and other symptoms after a bee stings. Medicines as well as home remedies both of them equally and effectively ease out the discomfort and pain.


A sting from a bee is known as a bee sting. There are many species of bees and most commonly one found are honey bee, bumblebee, sweat bee etc. Sting of bee causes lots of pain and discomfort, but still in most of the cases it is harmless. Usually bee sting do not escalate into anything dangerous. Venom or toxin present in one bee differs from another. This is the reason that body's reaction too differs in response to bee stings of different species. Bee stings are acidic in nature and are incredibly common. Most common bee sting is from honey bee.

Bee sting

Bees cause a puncture wound on the skin. This laceration caused on skin itself is known as a bee sting. A local toxic reaction thereby takes place on the skin at the site of bee sting. It is usually caused due to venom present in a bee. Each bee consists of a stinger which has three parts. There is a stylus in between and two lancets on either sides of the stylus. These two lancets draw stylus inside the skin. A sac of venom is attached to a stinger. When target is approached, lancets alternatively move up and down the stylus. When lancet of one side goes inside the wound, it drags other side too and stylus is pushed further inside. In some bees, stinging mechanism is detached from their abdomen. However, when a honey bee stings, it is unable to withdraw its stinger out after causing a sting. It not only leaves behind its stinger but also its muscles, nerves, partial abdomen and digestive tract. This is the reason that honey bee dies after stinging as it suffers from huge abdominal rupture.


Local reaction takes place at the site of an attack. Pain is the most common symptom experienced by most of the individuals. Pain is instant and quick in onset. Nature of pain is burning type and intensity is very sharp. Duration lasts for a few seconds. Localized swelling is seen with increased redness. It appears to be very painful and itchy. Swelling and redness increases with time. Severity of pain depends on the body part. Certain parts are more susceptible to pain. These symptoms are common with various species of bees. However, certain bee stings can cause severe local reactions like red erythema which can reach up to 12 inches. Swelling of extremities can be seen.

Things to do after a bee sting

  • Remove the stinger form the skin immediately. Stinger in the skin continues to inject venom. If not removed can worsen the symptoms.
  • Apply a cold compress to the area of sting to reduce pain, swelling and other signs of inflammation.
  • Wash the area of the sting properly with water and soap.
  • Seek some company so that they can watch whether patient is showing allergic reactions or anaphylaxis.
  • Call for medical help if allergic or anaphylactic reactions are taking place in the body.
  • Take an antihistamine like Benadryl to prevent anaphylaxis.
  • Take an aspirin to reduce pain. Creams or sprays containing anesthetic components can also be made use of.
  • Antihistamine, steroid creams or menthol can be used.
  • If allergic reactions are taking place in body then double the dose of epinephrine but do inform the medical team about the same.
  • Make use of epi-pen if doctor has prescribed it during previous allergic reaction. Carry it all the times.
  • Dab a little hydrocortisone cream or other corticosteroid creams on the sting area to decrease signs of inflammation.

Things not to do during a bee sting

  • Do not panic. Honey bee is the only bee which leaves its stinger inside the skin and thereby dies due to massive abdominal rupture. Whereas other bees will continue to sting if rage or excess movement is shown. Thus, handle the situation carefully and escape from the bees.
  • Do not excessively squeeze the stinger in making an attempt to get rid of it. This will cause excess venom to enter inside the lacerated skin. Avoid using tweezers for removal of stinger.
  • Do not burst open blisters as it may give rise to an infection which will aggravate already existing symptoms.
  • Never scratch the area of sting as it may lead to an infection.

Removal of stinger

Removing stinger out of the skin as soon as possible is the best measure one can take after getting a bee sting. If stringer continues to remain in skin then it will continue to draw venom through lacerated wound. Thus, its quick removal is advised. However, correct procedure should be adopted in its removal. Making a haste here by just randomly scraping it can delay its removal. Stinger is almost the size of the tip of the pen. It will sometimes carry torn flesh from the honey bee and sometimes one can see a bee attached to it. First and foremost, locate the stinger. Do not use tweezers as more venom will be released into the body. Use finger nails to remove it or else use a credit card to sweep it. Even a blunt knife can be used to swipe over the area of the sting.

Home remedies

  • If bee has stung on an arm or leg then elevate it. This will consequently decrease pain and swelling. Keep affected leg elevated by placing it on pillows. Rest affected arm on an object and try to keep it above heart level.
  • Honey can be easily found within each and every home. It has antiseptic properties. Apply it on the affected area with the help of fingers or cotton ball.
  • After cleaning the affected area properly, allow cold water to run over it. Applying towel dripped in an ice cold water or an ice pack is also very careful. This will reduce soreness.
  • When outside and completely unprepared, mud always comes to rescue. Mix some water with dry mud to make a little thick paste and apply it over affected area. After reaching home, rinse it properly.
  • Baking soda not only reduces erythema, but provides a calming effect and relieves itching. Prepare a paste out of baking soda and water which is thin enough to spread over sting. Covering it with bandage will seem to be more effective. If this paste is applied immediately after a sting, it pulls out the venom.
  • Apply some apple cider vinegar on sting with the help of a cotton. Initially, it may produce a burning sensation, but later it proves to be effective in reducing pain.
  • To get rid of itchiness caused due to sting, apply some toothpaste over it. Natural toothpaste proves to be more effective in the treatment.
  • Calamine lotion is of great help in the treatment of a bee sting. It creates a soothing effect on skin and reduces signs of inflammation. Calamine lotion with analgesic is particularly effective.
  • Lavender essential oil applied with or without liquid neutral oil eases discomfort. It reduces itching and swelling.
  • Dissolve an aspirin tablet in small amount of water to make a paste. This paste reduces pain and swelling caused by sting.
  • Tea tree oil mixed with a carrier oil can be applied to the affected area.
  • Break the leaf of an aloevera plant. Squeeze the fresh gel coming out of leaf and apply it on the sting.
  • Apply some witch hazel on the sting and within short period of time, pain, inflammation and itchiness is seen to be reduced.

What is the first and foremost thing to do after a bee sting ?

Look around if there is presence of any hive nearby. If yes, quickly but calmly move away. Maintain calm and do not panic. Making large movements like running or waving arms can create a disaster. Freaking out at that moment is not advisable. If it is any other bee, it definitely is not going to leave any stinger inside. If it is honey bee then stinger will be left inside the open wound caused in the skin. Remove the stinger as soon as possible. This stinger is known to release pheromones which is responsible to send signals to nearby bees. If not removed quickly then signals sent can be a threat, particularly if bee hive is nearby. Once removed, home remedies or medicines can be taken to relieve pain and discomfort.


Bee stings most of the times are insignificant. They cause a little pain and discomfort due to the venom injected inside lacerated sting. These symptoms subside with time. However, it is a matter of concern in case of those individuals who show severe allergic reactions and goes into anaphylactic shock after bee sting. First and foremost care one needs to take is to remain calm. Panic along with anxiety created together can multiply the pain. Remove the stinger and apply some home remedies over affected area. Certain medicines taken orally and also if applied topically prove to be effective in relieving symptoms. Bees are very commonly found everywhere. Certain precautions taken will prevent bee stings and if bee has already stung then calmly handle the whole scenario and quickly get rid of all the pain and discomfort that is been caused.

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Author: Reena Upadhya14 Sep 2017 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 2

In case of multiple stings, a person may suffer from high fever, rashes, nausea, headache etc. Rarely it may also cause difficulty in breathing, fall in blood pressure and swollen joints causing lots of pain. In case of children, multiple stings can prove to be fatal. Also, if stings become infected then it will lead to accumulation of pus in there. This in turn will cause lots of pain and other signs of inflammation.

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