How to Treat a Bee Sting

Bee Sting | Physician OneWhen they sense danger to themselves or their hives, bees often react by stinging a would-be threat. In most cases, these stings result in painful, red welts that require little to no medical attention. Sometimes, however, bee stings provoke aggressive immune responses that can put a person’s life at risk. Before you head out to enjoy the warm spring weather, learn the proper bee sting treatment and find out how to quickly identify a potentially dangerous allergic reaction.
Signs of Trouble
While painful, bee stings pose little threat to most people. That said, in some instances, they can lead to dangerous allergic reactions that can put a person’s life at risk. If you notice any of the following after a bee sting, seek emergency care right away.

  • Hives or a red, itchy rash that spreads beyond the sting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swelling of the mouth, throat or face
  • Rapid pulse
  • Anxiety or restlessness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness

In the event of a serious allergic reaction, doctors usually provide epinephrine. Once you identify your allergy, you may need to carry an Epipen in case you’re stung again at some point in the future.
Treating an Ordinary Bee Sting
For people who are not allergic to bee stings, treatment generally centers on pain relief. First, remove the stinger if necessary, using your fingers or a pair of tweezers. Next, wash the wound with soap to eliminate any potential germs. Usually, you can alleviate discomfort by applying ice to the wound. You may also take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to dull the pain. You can also try elevating the area if possible to relieve swelling. If the skin is especially itchy, try taking an antihistamine.
Most of the time, symptoms will immediately diminish; however, it can take several hours for all symptoms to subside. It may also take about two to five days for the wound to heal completely. In the meantime, cover the area with a Band-Aid to prevent infection.

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