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What To Do For A Bee Sting
Posted By Dr. Ben Kim
Over the weekend, I was at a park with our boys when I felt a colossal wave of pain hit one of the toes of my right foot. After scrambling to get my sandal off, I looked inside to find a bee that was curled up and unable to move.
Fortunately, I knew not to try to pluck the bee's stinger out with my fingers, and ended up feeling fine within a couple of hours.
So, courtesy of my first-ever bee sting and notes from my first aid and emergency care class in chiropractic school from the mid-90's, some thoughts to keep in mind in case you or a loved one is stung by a bee:
If you're stung by a honey bee, try to find the stinger. Honey bees don't always leave their stingers behind, but they often do. The sooner you get a stinger out, the less you'll suffer.
If you're able to locate the stinger, take the edge of a firm surface, like a credit card or even a finger nail and try to brush or scrape the stinger off.
Stingers shouldn't be removed with forceps or with a pinch of your fingers because compressing the attached sac of venom is likely to worsen the injury.
If you can see the end of the stinger but can't access it, try using a fingernail to press down into your skin about half an inch away - sometimes, this will allow the tissues surrounding the stinger to relax a bit and allow the stinger to rise enough to scrape it away (this is a commonly used technique to remove an acupuncture needle that muscle fibers have contracted around).
Once you're relatively sure that you don't have a stinger in your skin, gently wash the area with cold water and soap. If pain persists after running cold water over the injured site, apply a cold or ice pack (wrapped in a thin towel or cloth) for five to fifteen minutes, or until the area feels numb. Repeat cold or ice pack application in this manner once every couple of hours until discomfort subsides.
Wasps and bumble bees don't tend to leave their stingers behind. If you're ever stung by a wasp or bumble bee, simply clean the punctured site with cold water and soap, then use an ice or cold pack as directed above.
In all cases, be on the lookout for signs of an allergic reaction. The most common signs of an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting are:
- Noticeable swelling surrounding the site of injury
- Lightheadedness or fainting
Sometimes, an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting can result in respiratory distress. If you experience trouble breathing after getting stung, it's best to seek medical attention immediately.
The mouth and throat regions are sometimes stung by bees or wasps that have made their way into drink containers. Getting stung in the mouth, pharynx, or esophagus can lead to significant respiratory distress, so be mindful of protecting your drinks when outdoors, as accidental ingestion of biting insects is more common than one would think.
The take-home message here is to remember not to pluck a stinger out with tweezers or your fingertips. Where there's a stinger in the flesh, try to scrape it off.
If you have any thoughts on this topic that you'd like to share with others, please use the comments section below. Thank you.
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