Most species of bees are not aggressive and rarely sting unless provoked. As we start to spend more time outdoors enjoying spring and summer activities, however, the chances for a bee sting increase. The following guide from FastMed will help you know what to do for a bee sting and how to recognize the signs of a serious allergic reaction.
Bee Sting Treatment: Immediate First Aid Steps
If you notice multiple bees in the area or the victim experiences multiple stings, it is possible that a nest may have been disturbed. Immediately move the individual to another area to reduce the chance of further stings. Try to keep the individual as quiet and calm as possible since an elevated heart rate moves the venom through the system quicker and can hasten and intensify any potential allergic reaction. If possible, you should keep the affected area below the level of the heart to slow the spread of the venom. Examine the site of the bee sting to see if the stinger is still present. If it is, use the edge of a credit card or similar object to gently scrape it out. You should then wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. It is also a good idea to cover the area with a bandage to prevent scratching, which can break the skin and lead to infection.
Bee Sting Relief
In most cases, bee stings only cause mild, temporary discomfort; however, you can use a home or over-the-counter bee sting remedy to relieve any itching or swelling, including:
- Applying cold compresses to the area to reduce pain and swelling.
- Applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the area to alleviate itching.
- Taking oral antihistamines to control mild to moderate itching and swelling.
Bee Sting Treatment: Recognizing an Allergic Reaction
In most cases, bee stings are not life threatening; however, it is important to know the signs of an allergic reaction and to take prompt action if those symptoms should develop.
Mild Reactions: Mild reactions to bee stings are characterized by an immediate burning pain, swelling, and a red welt at the site of the sting. The symptoms usually resolve within a few hours using the conservative bee sting relief measures mentioned above.
Moderate Reactions: Moderate reactions to bee stings are characterized by extreme redness and swelling at the site that may worsen over the next couple of days. Over-the-counter antihistamines are often an effective bee sting remedy in these situations since they block the body’s allergic response.
Severe Reactions: A small percentage of individuals can experience a severe allergic reaction to bee stings known as anaphylaxis. This type of reaction is life threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Signs of a severe allergic reaction include:
- Swelling of the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme skin reactions, such as hives
- Loss of consciousness
- Weak or rapid pulse
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
Even individuals who do not normally experience allergic reactions to stings may become quite ill if they are stung multiple times due to the accumulation of venom in the system.
What to Do for a Bee Sting That Causes a Severe Reaction
It is important to call 911 or head to the nearest emergency room at the first sign of a severe reaction to a bee sting. Various medications, such as epinephrine, albuterol, IV antihistamines, and oxygen can be used to combat the allergic response and improve breathing.
Individuals who have had a severe reaction to bee stings have up to a 60 percent chance of experiencing a similar reaction the next time that they are stung. In this situation, the doctor may recommend preventative measures, such as allergy shots, to reduce the body’s sensitivity to the venom. Individuals with a history of severe reactions should also consider carrying an emergency bee sting remedy, such as an epinephrine auto injector that can be used immediately after the sting to reduce the severity of the reaction.
Preventing Bee Stings
You can reduce your chances of being stung by taking the following steps:
- Keep any sweetened drinks covered when outside. You should also check the lid or straw carefully to make sure that a bee is not lurking inside.
- Avoid loose clothes, open-toed shoes, bright colors, and floral prints that can attract or hide bees.
- Keep all food and trash containers tightly covered.
- Keep windows and doors closed.
- Be on the lookout for nests and hives when mowing or trimming tall vegetation.
If you do come across bees or other stinging insects, avoid swatting since this can provoke them. If you do get stung and experience a mild to moderate reaction or the symptoms do not resolve within a few days, head to your nearest FastMed location for treatment. We have more than 100 locations throughout Arizona, Texas, and North Carolina to serve you.
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