Written by Anza Goodbar (last updated February 17, 2012)
Bee stings can be painful. The first thing to do after a sting is to remove the stinger. The stinger will continue to pump venom while it is attached. Hornets and wasps are related to bees, the big difference is they do not leave their stingers behind and can sting multiple times. If the person is allergic to a bee sting, they will most likely have a similar reaction to a wasp or hornet.
It is important to move away from the bee area once a sting has occurred. Bees emit a scent when there is danger to the hive. This scent is like a call to action to other bees to protect the hive. Once the reinforcements arrive, they will begin stinging their perceived threat. Multiple bee stings can be life threatening.
Once you have been moved to safety, remover the stinger. The sooner the stinger is removed the less sever the reaction. Stingers can be brushed off or pulled out by your fingers.
Most people who have allergies to bee sting carry an epinephrine auto injector or EpiPen. Check to see if that is needed. If so, help them inject the medicine to prevent dangerous symptoms from taking over. If the person does not have one, but should, call 911 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to occur.
Watch for signs of anaphylaxis. Symptoms include itching, redness around bite site, hives and shortness of breath. If these symptoms arise, call 911 immediately. Use of Benadryl will slow down the reaction but will not stop it.
Most non-allergic bite victims will develop a localized redness around the site. A small amount of swelling may also be evident and may last for a day. The pain from the sting should go away quickly. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen should be sufficient for the pain and an ice pack should reduce the swelling. Keep a cloth between the skin and ice and do not leave the ice in contact for more than 20 minutes.
The most important thing is not to panic. Should you be in an area with several hives, it is imperative not to put the bees on high alert of danger. Stay calm, move to a safe location, and remove the stinger. Keep in mind it is normal for there to be slight pain from the sting, but this should go away quickly. Apply a topical application of Benadryl for itching and use ice if needed for swelling. Watch for signs of anaphylaxis and call 911 if needed.
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