Easy Ways to Treat Insect Stings at Home

Published in Wellness Tag: David Ross, MD,MBA  

Author: David Ross, MD, MBA

Ouch! You went head-to-head with a bee, and the bee won. Now what?

It may sting (pun intended), but most stings are harmless and can be treated at home.

  • Remove the stinger by scraping the area with a fingernail or using tweezers. Just don't pinch it out. Pinching the stinger may inject more venom.
  • Control the swelling with ice. If you can elevate the part of your body that was stung. Remove any tight fitting jewelry from the area of the sting. As it swells, rings or bracelets may be difficult to remove.
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain. Calamine lotion and/or an antihistamine like Bernadene may help with itchiness. If you don't have calamine lotion, try a mixture of baking soda and water.
  • Stings will clear up on their own, but they may take a few days to heal. Be sure to keep the area clean to prevent infections.

Some people may have more serious—and in some cases life-threatening—reactions to insect stings.

  • Trouble breathing
  • A swollen tongue
  • Hoarseness or trouble speaking
  • Nausea, abdominal pain or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse
  • Skin that severely itches, tingles, swells or turns red
  • Feelings of faintness or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness

If you or the person stung has any of these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions to stings, call 911 immediately.

Many people who know they are allergic to insect stings will have some sort of action plan. Follow that plan. If the person has an epinephrine shot (Pepin), they should use it if they can. If they cannot, inject it for them in the outer muscle of the thigh. Follow the instructions carefully. Should the person stop breathing, begin CPR until medical assistance arrives.

Don't let these pesky insects get the best of you! Avoid further stings by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent and avoiding infested areas.