How to treat a bee sting

Most of us enjoy the smells and bright colors flowers bring us. As the seasons change and the weather warms up helping flowers can grow and bloom, it also means bees are working hard to keep our flora pollinated.

Generally, bees, hornets and wasps fly around minding their buzzing business. However, occasionally people experience the misfortune of being stung. This could be caused by stepping on a bee while it’s pollinating or getting too close to a yellow jacket’s hive.

A bee’s stinger contains venom which causes the reaction. Bee stings cause various reactions, including pain, to possibly severe anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction).

Mild reactions include:

  • Instant pain
  • Swelling
  • Red-colored skin

Some home remedies that can help alleviate mild reactions are:

  • Using the edge of a debit card to get the stinger out
  • Applying ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling
  • Taking an anti-inflammatory such as Motrin
  • Applying hydrocortisone cream to the sting site

Anaphylaxis warning signs:

  • Throat and tongue swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Hives and/or itchy skin
  • Feeling faint

Be aware symptoms may get worse before they get better. Most reactions resolve themselves within about a week without medical attention. If your bee sting does not get better on its own, visit your nearest urgent care to receive medical care. If you experience immediate anaphylaxis symptoms, use your prescribed epinephrine autoinjector or call 911.

Find the closest urgent care with the UofL Health — Urgent Care Plus site or text ERWait to 511511 to get current wait times at UofL Health’s Emergency Room locations.

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About Heather Wingfeld, PA-C

Heather Wingfeld, PA-C is a physician assistant who specializes in emergency medicine, urgent care, and hospital medicine. She graduated from Georgia State University in 2008 where she studied political science and chemistry. After working in the emergency department and as an EMT and volunteer firefighter, she then completed her Master of Science in Physician Assistant studies in 2017. She currently provides care for patients at UofL Urgent Care at Medical Center Northeast.

All posts by Heather Wingfeld, PA-C