Ow! Whether it’s from a bee, a wasp or a hornet, a sting can be an painful part of the great outdoors. The good news? Most stings are easily treated with home remedies, and the effects won’t last long.
That being said, allergic reactions to stings can be fatal. Seek medical attention immediately if:
• You feel swelling in your throat or nose
• You have trouble breathing
• You were stung inside your mouth or nose
• You feel disoriented, nauseous or dizzy
• You were stung many times by multiple insects
• You notice the wound swelling far larger than expected, or you develop a rash or reaction away from the sting site
For run-of-the-mill stings, remove the stinger asap if it’s stuck in your skin—scraping it gently with something like a credit card tends to dislodge stinger without expelling more venom.
From there, try these home remedies to get rid of the stingy, swollen itchiness.
Meat tenderizer and water
Meat tenderizer contains an enzyme, papain, that helps neutralize the proteins in venom that cause pain, itching and swelling. (If you have papaya on hand, you can mash it up and use it instead of meat tenderizer.) Apply a paste of one part tenderizer and four parts water to the affected area. Some people’s skin can be sensitive, so try and look for a meat tenderizer without salt (may be easier said than done), and don’t leave the paste on for longer than 30 minutes.
Baking soda and water
This classic remedy involves making a paste of baking soda and water and packing it onto the sting. The medical evidence supporting this remedy is a little light—bee venom is mildly acidic, so it’s neutralized by bases like sodium bicarbonate, but the amount of venom on the skin tends to be negligible. It’s possible that the cooling sensation of the paste is all that’s needed to soothe irritated skin. But regardless of how it works, this remedy has been a go-to for many generations of outdoor lovers.
Simply icing the sting after removing the stinger has been proven to be as effective as (if not more than effect than) other home remedies, like rubbing wet aspirin or a cut onion into the wound. Ice will slow blood flow, which will halt the spread of any venom in the wound and help numb any itching.
Aluminum chlorohydrate, the active ingredient in antiperspirants (not deodorants), has an effect on bee venom similar to meat tenderizer, although to a lesser extent. If you can’t find the tenderizer, break out the roller ball and see if it helps.
Of course, the best way to treat bee stings is not to get stung in the first place. Avoid wearing bright-coloured clothing, lay off the perfumes and heavy scents, and if a bee lands on you and won’t go away, gently blow on it rather than swatting it.