What is the Best Treatment for Insect Stings?

Jessica Hobby

Every year, wasps, bees and hornets are responsible for stinging millions of people around the world. Insect stings may cause a severe allergic reaction in some people, but will cause mild discomfort and pain for most people. In the event of an insect sting, it is important to administer the proper treatment.

It's best to wash bee stings and gently remove the stinger.
It's best to wash bee stings and gently remove the stinger.

Before administering any treatment, it is important to find out if the person who has been stung has an allergy to insect stings. If he does not know, he should not be left alone for a long period of time until it is determined that he doesn't have an allergy. Normal symptoms of an insect sting are redness, pain and swelling. A severe allergic reaction will usually reveal itself with difficulty in breathing, swelling of the throat, mouth or face, wheezing, hives outside of the sting site, dizziness or rapid pulse. These signs are symptoms of anaphylaxis, which could lead to unconsciousness or shock in ten minutes or less, so emergency services should be contacted immediately.

A yellow jacket.
A yellow jacket.

Severe allergic reactions to insect stings do happen, but they are very rare. Once it has been ruled out that an allergic reaction has not taken place, it is necessary to remove the stinger if it is still in the skin. The stinger should never be squeezed or pulled out with tweezers because it can release more venom into the skin and possibly damage the muscle.

Hives may be present when a person is allergic to an insect sting.
Hives may be present when a person is allergic to an insect sting.

After washing the area with soap and water, the best way to remove the stinger is by scraping gently across the skin until it comes out. A finger nail or another hard-edged object such as a credit card will offer the best results. The stinger may also be removed by wiping a piece of gauze over the area until the stinger comes out.

Regardless of which method is used, scratching the area should be avoided because it will make the sting more open for infection and cause further swelling and itching. After the stinger is removed, antiseptic should be applied to reduce the chance of infection. If the swelling continues to increase or isn’t going down, ice should be applied to the insect sting to help the swelling subside.

If there continues to be swelling, itching and hives, an over-the-counter antihistamine may be taken to help reduce the symptoms that insect stings cause. Similarly, an over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may be taken to reduce pain. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctor before taking any oral medications and children under the age of 2 should not be given antihistamines.

A stinger can often be removed by wiping a piece of gauze over the area until the stinger comes out.
A stinger can often be removed by wiping a piece of gauze over the area until the stinger comes out.

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Discussion Comments

anon41795

Just to tell everyone about a product that I've found helpful. It is really effective at treating things like fire ant bites, as well as bee or wasps stings and other insect bites/stings. It's an ointment called Stops the Sting that relieves pain when applied to the affected area almost immediately. It also neutralizes the venom and helps minimize itching, swelling, and blisters. I think it's a relatively new product though, so you might not be able to find it unless you order it online.

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