My editor asked me to track down some proven tips for how to relieve the pain of bee stings. In a nutshell, it looks like your top choices are a credit card, toothpaste, calamine lotion and good ole ice.
First off, the Mayo Clinic website explains that you should immediately remove the stinger and the attached venom sac to prevent the release of more venom. The Mayo experts also added that using the edge of a credit card, a fingernail or a pair of tweezers will help in the removal of the stinger, but they said to be careful not to squeeze the venom sac. Additional treatment includes washing the area with soap and water and applying ice, hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to ease the itching and redness. If the itching or redness continues, they suggested taking an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl, Tylenol Severe Allergy or Chlor-Trimeton. All of these treatments will typically work for someone who is not severely allergic or who has not been stung several times. For severe allergic reactions or multiple stings, the Mayo Clinic urges immediate medical attention.
As I continued my search, I came across a gutsy piece from Slate magazine by William Brantley called Sting Operation. Brantley reviewed a list of potential bee sting remedies, both pharmaceutical and home, and tested each one of them. But you can’t accurately test a bee sting remedy without a bee sting. How did he pull this off, you ask? He actually went to a beekeeper and was intentionally stung several times over a period of about two weeks in order to truly assess the benefits of each remedy. The 12 remedies he tried ranged from a Skeeter Stik containing benzocaine to hydrocortisone cream to applying a slice of a raw white onion on the infected area. He kept detailed records of his symptoms, taking notes every half-hour, and he tested two remedies per day with at least a five-hour break in between each remedy. Brantley then rated each remedy according to his results. Of the pharmaceutical remedies, the Skeeter Stik ranked as the “worst” and he found Caladryl calamine lotion to be “excellent.” The slice of a raw white onion was labeled “worst,” and although he reported that the paste of vinegar, baking soda and meat tenderizer “left him smelling like an antipasto platter,” it ranked at the top of his list as “excellent” for the home remedies.
Now comes the moment of truth. The two best remedies that Brantley found to ease bee sting symptoms are toothpaste and ice. He specifically applied Crest Advanced Cleaning toothpaste to the area and described it as feeling tingly, that being both physically and psychologically satisfying. He learned from a doctor that the symptoms were lessened because the glycerin in the toothpaste dries out the venom from the sting area. “The winner of the experiment” as he called it, was ice. He applied the ice to the area for about 20 minutes and that seemed to do the trick. He explained that the numbing decreased the swelling and the pain and itching were completely gone.
So there you have it. A complete review of home remedies that were actually tested for accurate results. And who would have thought? Good ole ice and toothpaste (!) were shown to be the two most effective home remedies for bee stings.
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