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How to treat bee and wasp stings in the wild.

Closeup of bee stinging a person's finger

The science behind a bee sting

The venom of the honeybee contains histamine, mast cell degranulating peptide, melittin (the toxin that causes pain), phospholipase A2, hyaluronidase and acid phosphatase. The sting’s injection of apitoxin into the victim is accompanied by the release of alarm pheromones, a process which is accelerated if the bee is fatally injured. The release of alarm pheromones near a hive may attract other bees to the location. These pheromones do not dissipate or wash off quickly, and if their target enters water, bees will resume their attack as soon as it leaves the water. The alarm pheromone emitted when a bee stings another animal smells like a banana.

How to treat a bee sting

Detached stinger trailing venom stuck in person's finger

If stung by a bee, immediately remove the stinger and venom sac, if attached, by scraping with a fingernail or a knife blade (yellow jackets, wasps, and hornets do not leave the stinger). Do not squeeze or grasp the stinger or venom sac, as squeezing will force more venom into the wound.

For about 2 percent of people, hypersensitivity can develop after being stung, creating a more severe reaction. An allergic person may suffer anaphylactic shock from certain proteins in the venom, which can be life-threatening. Check for allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or mouth, or rapid pulse.

Wash the sting site thoroughly with soap and water to lessen the chance of a secondary infection.

If you know or suspect that you are allergic to insect stings, always carry an insect sting kit with you.

Components that can be used to treat a bee sting in the wild

Relieve the itching and discomfort caused by insect bites by applying any of the following:

  • Raw onion
  • Cold compresses.
  • A cooling paste of mud and ashes
  • Vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer
  • Calamine lotion
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Honey
  • Sap from dandelions
  • Lemon and alcohol
  • Deodorant
  • Coconut meat
  • Crushed cloves of garlic
  • Onion

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Closeup of bee stinging a person's finger via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free. September 1, 2007

Featured Image Credit

Closeup of bee stinging a person's finger via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - GNU Free. September 1, 2007


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