Tips for Treating Bee & Wasp Stings - Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare

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Published on August 17, 2015

Tips for Treating Bee & Wasp Stings

In this season of bees and wasps and other stinging creatures, it’s very important to be aware of the symptoms a sting can cause and understand the difference between mild and severe reactions.

When a sting from a bee, wasp or yellow jacket occurs, a small amount of venom is injected into the skin. People react very differently to this venom. Most have a local response - flushing/redness/swelling/itching. Others (about 3 percent) may have an allergic response - coughing/wheezing/nauseated/dizzy.

What to Do if You're Stung

For a Local Sting Reaction

For those with a local response, if the stinger is still visible (look for a small black dot at the sting site) tweezers can be used to pluck it out or a hard object like a credit card to swipe over the area and gently scrape it free. The venom sack, which remains in the skin of the victim, can take 2-3 minutes to release all of its venom, so prompt removal of the stinger can reduce the severity of the sting. Clean the area with soap and water.

“The pain of a localized sting usually subsides within a few hours. Itching and swelling can last up to a week,” says Dr. Michael Boschek, internal medicine doctor with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in Brookfield. “The best action is to soothe the sting site with whatever feels best to the person – ice, or perhaps a paste made from baking soda and water to relieve the symptoms.”

For an Allergic Sting Reaction

In a systemic allergic reaction, the entire body is affected.

“The victim may develop hives, redness, or swelling at sites on the body distant from the site of the sting,” says Dr. Boschek. “In anaphylactic reactions, victims experience wheezing and difficulty breathing. These types of reactions usually occur within minutes of the sting and emergency care is required.”

Since most people who have allergies to bee stings will have a worsened reaction to every subsequent sting, those individuals with bee sting allergies should talk to their doctor about taking special precautions, including carrying an injectable form of the drugepinephrine (used to treat anaphylactic reactions) at all times.

When to Seek Emergency Care

Stings in the mouth or nose, even in persons not known to be allergic to bee stings also require emergency medical attention, since they can lead to swelling that can interfere with breathing. Also, if someone is swarmed and stung in excess of 10-15 times, emergency care is required.

Dr. Michael Boschek is an internal medicine physician at Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group – Internal Medicine & Specialty Care (Capitol & Lilly) in Brookfield. Call 414-302-5400 to make an appointment.

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Tips for Treating Bee & Wasp Stings