First-aid treatment of insect stings depends on several factors, such as the type of insect and an allergic reaction. These pests include wasps, yellow jackets, bees, and hornets.
A person’s reaction after being stung includes pain, itching, and warmth. Other local skin reactions include redness and swelling. As a result, every first-aid kit should have something to soothe itching, remove the stinger, and reduce swelling.
Over-the-counter (OTC) creams, gels, lotions, and pills typically found in first-aid kits are hydrocortisone, lidocaine, calamine, and more.
Alternatively, a person could make a baking soda and water paste to ease itching. Using ice on the sting will make the swelling go down.
In addition to helping with itching, lidocaine will also reduce pain. Other pain relievers are ice, cool water, and non-aspirin OTC medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin).
First-Aid Steps After Being Stung
People with mild to moderate local skin (non-allergic) reactions can treat stings at home. Healthcare providers suggest using OTC products as follows:
- Honeybee sting: Remove the stinger. Use a credit card or another dull item to scrape gently across the sting. Do not try to pull the stinger out; doing so may release more venom.
- Use soap and water to wash the area gently.
- If the sting is on the person’s arm or leg, doctors recommend elevating the limb to help reduce swelling.
- To help with itching, consider the following ideas: Apply a baking soda paste, a non-seasoned meat tenderizer paste, or a wet tea bag. Leave one of these poultices on the sting site for 15 to 20 minutes. In addition, commercially sold first-aid kits typically have OTC anti-itch products such as Cortisone 10, Badger After-Bug Balm, StingEze, and Sting-Kill.
- If it has been more than 10 years since the last tetanus immunization, get a booster within a few days after being stung.
- Most people do not need further medical assistance unless they have had a severe reaction after being stung.
Insect Sting Allergy Symptoms and Treatment
The harshness of insect sting allergy (anaphylaxis) symptoms differs from person to person. These symptoms include swelling that spreads beyond the sting site or swelling of the throat, face, and lips.
Additional signs are hives, headache, fainting, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramping.
The most severe insect sting allergy symptoms include difficulty breathing or swallowing, blood pressure decrease, weak and rapid heart rate, and loss of consciousness.
Call emergency medical services (911 in the U.S.) immediately if someone has an allergic reaction or is stung several times. While waiting for paramedics, stay calm, reassure the person that help is coming, and keep them warm and comfortable. If they have an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) in their first aid kit, give them the shot, and monitor the person’s breathing. Begin CPR if necessary.
If they show signs of going into shock — staying alert, rapid breathing, hyperventilation, cold, moist bluish, or pale skin – move them into the shock position by rolling the person onto their back and raising their legs 12 inches higher than their body.
Avoiding Insect Stings
It is important to remember that the honeybee leaves her stinger in her victim’s skin. On the other hand, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets repeatedly sting, which can lead to a severe reaction or death.
Sentry News’ in-house beekeeper advises everyone to stay calm and leave the area slowly when seeing flying, stinging insects. Find some shade that can act as camouflage and stop their pursuit if possible.
Bees, yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets are attracted by brightly colored, white, or pastel clothing and perfumes with floral scents. Avoid wearing these to help keep these nasty insects from stinging.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Originally published in Chicago Leader
Healthline: Bee Sting Allergy: Symptoms of Anaphylaxis; by Robin Madell, Medically reviewed by Marc Meth, MD
Beaumont: Bites and Stings: Insects
Healthline: What to Know About Hornet Stings; by Natalie Silver, Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN
WebMD: Treatment of Bee and Wasp Stings; Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissan, MD
Healthline: Wasp Stings: Reaction Symptoms and Treatment; by Erica Roth, Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon Ph.D., MSN
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