Bee Stings: Best Home Remedies

| 4/9/2010 10:09:46 AM

Tags: bees, bee stings, home remedies,

HoneybeeMy 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.

Photo by Istockphoto 

8/14/2013 6:08:33 PM

@Talent... if I ever get stung and don't have bleach handy but do have WD40 I'll give that a try!  

8/14/2013 5:55:23 PM

First of all the bee sting isn't in an infected area.  It's the affected area.

Secondly, I've been keeping bees for years and regularly get stung.  No swelling, pain, itching, nothing.

The only time someone should be concerned about a bee sting is if they are so allergic they go into shock.

Everyone else, just toughen up and deal with it.

I may sound harsh but come on, it's just an annoyance not the end of the world.

8/14/2013 3:13:14 PM

Plantain - grows most everywhere... broad leaf or narrow leaf... snatch a few leaves, crush them up with your fingers and apply to sting.  Almost immediate relief.

8/14/2013 12:49:45 PM

WD40 works for me, I'm a bee-keeper. I squirt it on my finger and rub it well in, after flicking the sting off of course. It even worked when I got stung inside my nostril. I was alone and couldn't see the sting, obviously. I got a twig and wiggled that aound vigorously to remove it then applied WD40 with my pinky. I could smell WD40 for a couple of days but no after effects from the sting.

8/14/2013 10:48:14 AM

Bleach.  If you can get to a bottle fast (within 5-10 mins) pour it on the sting.  It won't feel like anything's happenig at first but if you got the bleach on in time the sting won't hurt anymore by the next day.   I've used it on honey bee, yellow jacket, hornet, bumble bee stings, works on all of them. 

jeanne wolf
10/5/2012 9:58:15 PM

Vitamin C is excellant> Make a paste of water and vit C(citric acid) apply it to sting then take from 4 to 6 grams interally as it is an anti histomine, shortly there is no pain and no swelling.

tavi rhodes ellis
7/17/2012 1:00:33 PM

Tobacco is my go-to remedy. It draws out the venom within two minutes of application, and then you'll never know you've been stung. I first learned about it when I was 10 years old and my father treated my bee sting with chewed up tobacco leaves. I've found that it works just as well to break open a cigarette and chew the contents to mix it with saliva. (Although the taste is not as pleasant and there are nasty additives.) We are not tobacco users in my household, so I just keep tobacco leaves on hand in our first aid cabinet.

pia elworthy
7/17/2012 1:06:45 AM

Toothpaste works wonderfully on first degree burns it not only lessens the initial discomfort but also seems to negate the residual pain.

rhonda hettinger
7/16/2012 9:56:03 PM

If only we still had silver coins (although actually, I *do* try to carry one with me!) Years ago, the Boy Scouts were always told to keep a dime in their pocket. Not only was it handy for making an emergency phone call, but if you were stung, you spit on the coin and applied it to the sting. Don't ask me what the chemical interaction was between saliva, silver, and bee venom, but it does work--even when you're way out in the puckerbrush, a long way from ice or calamine.

rick trone
7/16/2012 3:49:06 PM

Was stung by a yellow jacket last week on the knuckle and put my hand in a bowel of water and Epsom salt. 10 minutes later I never even knew I had been stung :)

janet cruz
7/12/2010 12:50:18 AM

A compress of comfrey leaves works very well to take away all sting, itching and swelling of yellow jacket and mosquito bites, so would probably also work on bee stings. Just press on the bite for several minutes.

5/31/2010 10:46:52 AM

I have found that plantain works really well. If fresh just smoosh it up well, even by chewing it. If dried use a little olive oil to make a paste. It works well for other bites too, like mosquito bites.

5/12/2010 2:06:32 AM

Find the Watkins rep in your area and get some Watkins save. It will releave the pain and draw out the poisons in it.

5/11/2010 1:22:18 PM

This article is great! I do also wonder if he had tested the tobacco remedy out? I always heard that works, but never tried it. I have personally made good use of the weed they call wild plantain; my inlaw was stung at the park one day, and there was a lot of this growing around. So I picked some leaves from the plant, as well as a seed pod. I crushed the seed pod and bruised the leaves with my fingers, then put the seed pod directly on the sting, covered it with the leaves as a poultice. He said that the relief began almost immediately. I feel silly that we had never even considered using the cooler full of ice:) Ice sure makes sense; I used a cold spray (Cryoderm, it is like biofreeze) just the other day for some unidentifiable bite that was driving me crazy. One spray and I just forgot about it. Maybe it would work on stings, too.

5/11/2010 3:02:59 AM

This is good to know. I wonder, however, how long it has effect? I am usually swollen and itchy for days, not just hours. Should I just keep applying the ice or toothpaste?

ronnie maiden
5/10/2010 9:50:06 PM

I've found that zinc oxide works well to draw out the venom after you've flicked out the stinger (I've tried most of the remedies mentioned). I actually am somewhat allergic and have found that prompt treatment is key (of all remedies, including topicals, antihistamines, and, if necessary, an EpiPen).

makartes artesanias_2
5/10/2010 12:09:11 PM

Somos artesanos de la Ciudad de Alejandro Korn, Provincia de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Siempre recibimos Su boletin en El Correo Pero tambien de tenemos Dimos Este Correo nep y Cuenta Que aparentemente no estabamos registrados, lo hicimos entonses Correo Con Este, ademas les mandamos PARA QUE blog Visiten Nuestro. DESDE ya les ESTAMOS Muy Agradecido Con Todo Lo Que Mandan nn. Mucha suerte y salud PARA TODOS. Marcelo y Andrea

margaret fultz_2
5/10/2010 11:51:14 AM

There is an over the counter product that really works! It's called Stops the Sting! It's excellent - works in seconds and is easy to carry. You don't always have access to ice, toothpaste, etc. but you can easily carry a small tube of Stops the Sting in your pocket or purse.. Check them out - It's well worth the $5 sticker price.

john-christopher ward
5/10/2010 11:44:27 AM

What about tobacco? It has worked for me, mixed with saliva or honey.

teresa nering
5/10/2010 11:27:30 AM

A wonderful remedy is to tape a penny over the sting for 15 min. I find this particularly useful since I can usually find a penny even when I'm not at home.

kev coleman_1
5/10/2010 11:24:27 AM

I have always used Honey as an anti-histamine even when it is to treat a wasp sting and have found that it works quite well. I wonder if the researcher actually had this on his list to test?

kev coleman_1
5/10/2010 11:20:49 AM

I have always used honey as an anti-histamine when stung, even by wasps so I wonder did the researcher try this potential cure?

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