My Personal Experience with Bee Sting
My first experience (hopefully last) with bee sting was when I was in high school. I was helping my parents in removing weeds in our small eggplant garden. Out of curiosity, I tried to catch a bee silently collecting nectar from an eggplant flower. I did catch the bee but I involuntarily released it after few seconds because I felt a sudden and intense pain somewhere in my thumb. Ouch…I was stung by the angry bee! I didn’t expect it to happen. (Seriously!) I had no intention to kill the bee; I just wanted to experience holding it with my bare hands. It’s too late for me to realize that bees don’t like to be touched. Blah, blah, blah…enough reasoning.
I’ve saw the pricked area swelling badly. When I noticed the bee’s black stinger injected in the middle part of the raised area of my thumb, I quickly removed it using my finger nails. I didn’t know what to do to ease the pain. Bee sting is five times more painful than ordinary ant sting (though the feeling is subjective). I didn’t ask my parents any remedy for the bee sting because I was afraid that they may “laugh at me” for my stupid curiosity. Without any medication whatsoever, I just withstood the pain for hours. The next day, the pain was gone but the swelling did not subside completely. I forgot the number of days passed until the swelling was completely gone.
Though I am not anticipating another bee sting in the future, I believe that knowledge on bee sting treatments or remedies is very important. What if my future children will get stung by a bee, what will I do? I cannot just stand there watching my children crying in pain. I have to do something. I read a lot of articles in the internet about bee sting remedies. I want to share with you, what I’ve learned.
Bee Venom Composition
Bee venom contains melittin (a toxin) as well as histamine and other biogenic amines that cause pain and itching to vertebrates. The venom signifies the adaptation of bees against predation. They use it to protect their colony from predators. When they inject their stingers to the skin of vertebrates, a large portion of their abdomen is ruptured. This injury causes their death.
Bee Venom and Allergy
Bee venom contains certain proteins that can trigger allergic reaction to an individual. The most dangerous symptom of bee venom allergy is anaphylactic shock which is marked by a serious drop in blood pressure, breathing difficulty, and loss of consciousness. Since anaphylactic shock is deadly, immediate medical help is needed for the patient. Epinephrine injection is the best treatment for anaphylactic shock. It relaxes the airways and constricts blood vessels to increase blood pressure. Individuals who are highly allergic to bee venom and survived anaphylactic shock before should carry with them self-injectable EpiPen.
Home Remedies for Bee Sting
Bee Sting Removal and Cold Compress
The first step in treating bee sting is removing the stinger itself. Studies show that delaying the removal of the stinger for only few seconds will result to more venom being injected. Therefore, remove the stinger as fast as you can by using your fingers, tweezers, credit card, etc. Wash the swelling with soap and cold water. Dry it gently with towel. Then put ice (wrapped in cloth) or cool, wet compress to the inflamed area. The ice or cold compress will reduce swelling by constricting the blood vessels and slowing down the spread of venom-tainted blood. The ice’s numbing effect can also cancel the pain and itching.
Another remedy for bee sting is toothpaste; any brand would be okay but I recommend a brand with mint or menthol flavor. Toothpaste will tingle the swelling so the pain and itching will be reduced.
Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Meat Tenderizer
Other traditional remedies for bee sting are vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer. A lot of people claim that these are effective in treating bee sting. They say that vinegar and baking soda will neutralize the venom by acid-base reaction. They also say that meat tenderizer will hydrolyze the venom which is made up of protein. After reading this article, I questioned the effectiveness of vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer. Take note that the bee venom is injected under the skin and deep into the tissues; it is unlikely that topically applied vinegar, baking soda, or meat tenderizer will reach those areas to neutralize or hydrolyze the venom. Physically, vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer may not be effective but psychologically they may be effective (the mind perceiving benefit).
Other home remedies I read from the internet are herbs which are chewed first and then applied to the swelling. I don’t know if those herbs are effective; I doubt. The use of herbs as bee sting remedies is still practiced in many parts of the world.
Tobacco, Garlic, Onion, and Clay
People also recommend tobacco, garlic, onion, and clay for treating bee sting. Personally I doubt their effectiveness but you may try them. Share your experience with them in the comments tab below. According to the experiment of William Brantley of slate.com, tobacco and onion aren’t effective but they just give you weird smell. By the way, William Brantley performed a clever experiment on the effectiveness of various drugs and home remedies for bee sting. He found out that the best remedies for bee sting are ice and toothpaste. Read his cool article here.
Pharmaceutical Remedies for Bee Sting
There are also pharmaceutical remedies for bee sting: topical creams. Skeetir Stik and Survivor Gel Stick contain benzocaine, the anesthetic found in toothache medicines like Anbesol. Benzocaine “deadens” nerve endings so that the signal for pain and itching will not be transmitted to the brain.
To stop itching, there is Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Stopping which contains antihistamine. Antihistamine blocks histamine which causes the itching.
There is also hydrocortisone cream that reduces inflammation.
William Brantley chooses Caladryl calamine lotion as the best pharmaceutical remedy for bee sting. Calamine works as analgesic. The calamine lotion should be reapplied as soon as the pain or itching returns.[ad#afterpost]
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