Bee and wasp season can present a problem for people like me who are seriously allergic to wasp stings. Most people respond very well to home remedies for bee stings.
Me? I have to carry an epipen with me at all times when I’m outside. One sting, and I’m on the way to the emergency room. You probably won’t have a problem beyond the pain of the sting and the swelling or itching afterward.
If you don’t know whether you are (or your child is) allergic, here are the most common bee sting allergy symptoms: hives, redness, or swelling in places not close to the sting location. With an anaphylactic reaction, the person might experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, or a drop in blood pressure that can lead to shock if not treated promptly.
Even though I’m allergic, I don’t kill bees. Our ecosystem and food supply depend on bees, and you’re less likely to get stung if you just mind your own business or calmly avoid the honey bee.
Here are ten of the most popular home remedies to keep in your natural first aid kit just in case you have a run-in with one of our winged friends this summer.
Home Remedies for Bee Stings (and Wasps)
When you or a loved one is stung by a bee, the first step is to remove the stinger with a pair of tweezers. If no tweezers are available, take a stiff card (like a credit/debit card) and firmly slide the edge over the bee sting. Always avoid pressing the stinger deeper into the skin, as this can increase the chances of pain or an allergic response.
Wash the sting site with soap and water. Icing a bee sting helps reduce venom absorption and can reduce swelling. Witch hazel is great to swipe across insect stings to clean and soothe the area.
What does a bee sting look like?
You will probably see the bee’s stinger as a tiny black dot in the center of a red welt or swollen area. Depending on how long the stinger has been lodged into the skin, it could still be twitching and festering (and stinging – ouch!).
How long does a bee sting last?
A bee sting can last as long as the stinger remains buried in the skin. It’s always best to remove it immediately and apply a home remedy to ease the pain and swelling.
After the stinger is removed, apply one of these home remedies for bee stings for almost immediate bee sting swelling relief. These remedies can be used successfully for people with a normal reaction to stings, not a medical emergency.
1. Baking soda
Make a thick paste of water and baking soda. Apply it directly to the sting and let it dry. The alkaline properties of the baking soda will reduce the swelling and irritation.
2. Apple cider vinegar
I really haven’t found too many things ACV doesn’t help with. Pour a little bee sting vinegar straight from the bottle onto the sting. The acidity in the apple cider vinegar can help neutralize the toxins and ease the swelling and pain.
Make sure you keep raw apple cider vinegar in your pantry, it’s much more effective than the processed vinegar.
3. Raw honey
Honey is one of the crazier home remedies for bee stings, but it’s been used for centuries for just that. Raw honey is loaded with antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties so it really does make sense to put a little honey on the sting to reduce the swelling and the pain. Leave it on for at least 30 minutes before you wash it off. Repeat it as needed.
I love basil and always plant it in my kitchen herb garden. Not only great for seasoning food, it has anti-inflammatory properties that make it great for taking the swelling and irritation out of a bee sting.
Take a handful of basil leaves and crush them up until you get a paste. Place the paste directly on the sting. Leave it on there for about 30 minutes before you rinse it off, gently, with warm water. You can repeat as needed.
Calendula is one plant every garden should have. It not only produces beautiful bright flowers but it’s loaded with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. I keep calendula salve handy all the time but if you don’t have some on hand, you can make a calendula compress to apply directly to the sting.
Just pick some of your calendula flowers (at least a good handful) and place them in a pan with some filtered water. Bring the water to boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Allow it to cool, soak a clean cloth in the water and apply it directly to the sting. Repeat 3 or 4 times a day as needed.
You can also buy a gentle calendula cream or gel to keep on hand because it’s helpful for a variety of ailments and skin irritations.
Lesser known home remedies for bee stings, onions contain enzymes that draw out fluids and help relieve the swelling and irritation of the sting. Just take a slice of fresh onion and apply it directly to the sting and hold it there for a few minutes. Repeat as needed.
Papaya contains “papain”, an enzyme that helps with digestion, helps break down the venom in bee stings and has antiseptic properties. It’s great for applying directly to stings and burns and other skin wounds. Just mash a slice of papaya and apply it as a paste to the sting or you can just hold the slice of papaya on the sting.
8. Plantain leaf
Not the tiny bananas, but the “weed” that grows just about anywhere. The tannins in the plantain leaves are great for wounds and are famous for stopping bleeding. This is a really quick treatment for bee stings because all you have to do is pick a plantain leaf from your yard (unless you are using chemical pesticides – shame on you), chew it up and make a paste, and apply it directly to the bee sting.
And before you make an “ewwww” face about chewing a plantain leaf and placing it on a bee sting, think of how many times you spit on a Kleenex and wiped your child’s face. Come on, moms, you know you’ve done it.
9. Lavender essential oil
If you are only going to invest in one essential oil, get a good bottle of pure lavender essential oil. It has enough uses to post on every day for a year and not cover them all.
Lavender essential oil has properties that will neutralize the venom, reduce the swelling, relieve the pain and help to calm the person who was stung. You can apply it directly to the sting without diluting it, just one drop should be plenty, and you can apply it as needed.
Turmeric has been used in India for centuries to not only season food but for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties. You can buy organic dried turmeric powder online or in the spice aisle and keep it on hand.
Make a paste from turmeric powder and filtered water (a thick paste, not runny) and apply it to the sting. Let it stay on there for about 30 minutes, then rinse gently with warm water. You can reapply it as needed every 3 or 4 hours.
Bee Sting First Aid (The Natural Way)
Now that you’re armed with a good list of home remedies for bee stings, don’t let the little winged bees and wasps keep you inside. Get out there and get dirty!
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