A bee can kill you…but for the vast majority of you, a bee sting is simply a bit of pain. For the minority of people who have severe reactions to bee stings, the symptoms can range from a swelling of the total body, to vomiting shaking, trouble breathing, even coma, shock and death and die. In fact, more Americans die from bee or other insect stings than from snake bites every year.
Carry Your Own Stinger
If you know you are allergic to bees, carry a shot of epinephrine with you at all times and get medical help right away. If you haven’t been stung before and aren’t sure if you are allergic or not, pay close attention to how you feel right after a sting.
Don’t Mess Around
If you have bigger problems than pain or swelling around the bee sting area, get medical help fast! Usually, allergic symptoms set in within 20 minutes after a bee sting, and the sooner you have a reaction, the more allergic you are.
For the Rest of You
Even if you aren’t allergic, you can have pain and swelling from an insect sting, but you doesn’t have to suffer for very long. First, identify the critter who zapped you. If your attacker was a honey bee, locate the stinger and venom sac at the site of the sting and scrape it out of your skin immediately.
When you leave a honey bee stinger in, the sac continues to pump venom into your system for two minutes after the sting. Don’t squeeze the sac or try to pull it out-you will just be pushing the venom right into your skin.
If it was a yellow jacket or some other wasp or hornet, you don’t have to worry about it leaving a stinger behind. But you do have to get out of the area fast, because these little guys can come back and sting you several more times.
Pop a Pill
After a bite, you can take aspirin or ibuprofen for the pain, and an antihistamine like Benadryl, to help reduce swelling. If the sting area continues to feel painful, apply an ice pack or heat to the sting for relief from pain and swelling. People have also gotten relief from stings by applying ammonia or enzyme-based meat tenderizer to the site immediately after they’ve been stung. Others have reduced pain and swelling by applying a baking soda or charcoal paste to the sting. In a pinch, apply mud to the sting, wrap it with a bandage or piece of cloth, and leave it on until the mud dries.
Don’t Pick a Fight
The best way to treat stings is to avoid getting stung while outdoors. Try not to attract bees or other stinging insects by wearing light-colored, white or khaki neutral clothes, because bees are attracted to prints or dark colors. Don’t wear hair spray, cosmetics, deodorants or other perfumed products which may fool bees into thinking you’re a giant flower. If you continue to have bee sting problems, talk to your doctor about increasing the amount of zinc in your body. Bees seem very attracted to people with zinc deficiency. Finally, pay attention to your surroundings and be ready for trouble.