Today we are talking about home remedies for bee stings. Most of them are backed up by some basic science, but most of them have simply been passed by generations of grandmothers who had to work using the trial and error method to cure something that at best causes some temporary discomfort. Before digging deeper into these traditional treatments we should learn a couple of things about bees, so let’s begin with the facts offered by modern science on the matter.
Table of Contents
- Bees: Nature’s Little Secret
- The Sting of death (for Bees)
- Defense Mechanisms Galore
- How to deal with a Bee Sting
- Closing Thoughts and Means of Prevention
Bees: Nature’s Little Secret
Bees are wonderful little insects. One of nature's most organized species in the animal kingdom with a social structure and specific tasks dedicated to collection and gathering of pollen to make honey. The little wonders, however, are not defenseless since every single one of them has a very powerful sting at the end of their tails to defend themselves, their work, or their community hive.
As it usually happens with almost every animal out there, bees rarely attack unprovoked: this only happens if they perceive you as a threat or if show nervousness to their presence. Waving your arms is a guaranteed sting on your skin. It comes with a price though: since bees attack out of their sense to protect their community, the sting it’s usually fatal for them.
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The Sting of death (for Bees)
That's right, unlike wasps, bees' stings are harder, and they can pierce almost any hide with a single puncture, but they lose their life after a single attack. This is why science has gone out of their way to clear the air about a lot of aspects related to bees. Once seen as malignant, they are now some of nature's most prized treasures and their main produce its raw material for a lot of companies in the food industry.
Beekeepers have also helped to understand a lot of what it’s known about bees today, thanks to them we now know that the substance they release in their sting it’s a venom called Apitoxin that is composed of proteins, and the swelling we commonly experience after being stung is a natural reaction of our bodies as it liberates white cells to compensate for it.
Defense Mechanisms Galore
Another interesting fact that science has managed to collect is that bees can only inject 0.1mg of Apitoxin on their stings, and the human body can handle as much as ten stings per pound of body mass, which means that for the average 150 pound human would have to receive nearly a thousand strings to be in serious danger.
What it’s commonly called the “bee string allergy” it’s actually a random focalized reaction commonly known as an Anaphylactic shock that only 1 in every 10,000 people has. For most of these people, a single sting could prove fatal and even in those cases, the affected party is covered these days with an easy to apply medicine called EpiPen. This is nothing more than the commercial name for a shot of adrenaline.
How to deal with a Bee Sting
Treating a bee sting, it's not exactly something that requires going to the ER to get medical attention unless you happen to be one of the few unlucky persons on earth with the allergy on their genes. There are a lot of home treatments for bee stings that can be easily done at your own place with common items that you have in your pantry or bathroom cabinet. Beware though: if you happen to be a nervous person, the first thing to keep in mind after being stung by a bee is not to lose your cool.
The first thing you have to do is remove the sting using your own nail or some sort of card. Don’t pinch it! You’ll only make it worse, just get away from wherever you are, since is very likely that more bees are in the area and the loss of one of them release pheromones to the others to let them know that they are in danger.
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After getting back home, these are some of the things you can do to treat the injury and the swelling left by the sting:
1 Rub Toothpaste on it
Since we are talking home remedies for bee stings here, let’s talk about some of the most unconventional choices first. There is no clear science as to why toothpaste helps to treat bee strings. A couple of brief studies in the past linked the relationship between the alkaline properties present at toothpaste being able to cancel out the acids presents in Apitoxin, but nothing was conclusive.
Most grandmothers simply state that the minty properties of toothpaste can “cool down” the swelling. Whatever the truth is behind it, the fact is that this is one of the oldest treatments to bee strings that seem to work for everybody. After being strung you just have to apply mint-flavored toothpaste to the affected area and rub it in for a couple of minutes.
2 Apply some Baking Soda
Baking Soda has not been labeled a superfood by nutritionists because there is no practical way to consume it on its own, but it’s an open fact among the scientific community that this chemical compound it’s useful for almost everything. Also known as Bicarbonate, baking soda can be used to freshen a person’s breath, make deodorant, treat almost every type of stomach-related ailment, take out stains related to oils and grease from clothing or home appliances, absorb strong odors, and make baked goods rise and feel puffy as you eat them. It’s also helpful to treat bee stings by mixing a couple of grams with a little water to make a paste that should be applied to the affected area for a few minutes.
3 Use Mud
Yes, you read that right. We are talking about plain old mud as in dirt mixed with water. Maybe you haven't given this one thought, but science has proven that mud in its more pure form contains a lot of nutrients and minerals that can be very useful for the human skin. Natural mud can absorb toxins on contact. It helps to relax the muscles of the body and improves blood circulation.
Mud can also treat inflammations, swellings, and it can relieve the pain as well as make the skin softer. This is one of the easiest treatments we can apply and is very useful when a bee sting catches us unprepared. Simply take some mud from the dirt floor or make some with a little dirt and clean water, apply it to the affected area and let it take effect until you get home and can wash it.
4 Use some Honey on It
No, this one it's not some kind of poetic justice scenario. The main product manufactured by bees has a lot of medical properties as well as uses in the kitchen. With natural honey, you can improve digestion after a heavy meal, take away nausea, and lower your cholesterol. It can also be used for a number of treatments on your skin such as a cure for acne, a natural exfoliator, treat allergic reactions, reduce swelling and boost the healing capabilities in mild burns. To treat a bee sting with honey, you just need to apply raw honey on the affected area and cover it with a loose bandage for a couple of hours.
5 Apply Rhubarb Juice
Rhubarb is one of those plants that are a perennial cause of debate among culinary enthusiasts. A lot of them label the plant as a fruit while others say it’s a vegetable. Polarizing positions aside, the plant has a lot of medical benefits that have been certified by the scientific community.
The leave stalks are the most commonly used element of Rhubarb and they are good to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, they also help bones keep strong, it keeps cancer cells in check, and it slows down Alzheimer’s disease.
Very little it’s known about the actual healing properties of the plant, but beekeepers recommend the juice of Rhubarb to tend bee stings and it seems to work great according to first-hand observation. You just need to break open a stem of Rhubarb on top of the sting, apply the juice on the affected area and let it work. It will stain the skin temporally, but the relief will be instantaneous.
6 Use an Aspirin
The aspirin is one of the greatest medical achievements of medicine and is still widely popular around the world as a “fix-it-all” pill. Considered to be one the main treatments in many minor illnesses, aspirin is used in combination with some other powerful drugs to improve their effects or boost them.
Aspirin is well known for being an analgesic, an antipyretic and an anti-inflammatory. It also helps reduce blood clots preventing a number of major affections generated by them such as strokes and heart attacks.
Very few are actually aware that all the active properties of aspirins work topically. A mashed aspiring can be used to treat a bee sting by mixing it with a little water and applying it to the affected area. The swelling and the pain will be gone within 15 minutes or less.
7 Apply some Apple Cider Vinegar
In the way of traditional treatments to almost every illness out there Apple Cider Vinegar it’s always brought up by grandmothers all over the world. This one has actual science backing it up since the vinegar has multiple uses as a dietary component.
First and foremost is a source of Acetic acids that brings a lot of proteins, enzymes and positive bacteria to the human body, it’s very low on calories and it can help keep under control raising sugar levels on the blood to prevent diabetes.
Apple cider vinegar also can help prevent and treat cancer on superficial levels. The Acetic acid can neutralize the venom contained on a bee sting by soaking a bandage on the vinegar and covering the affected area for 20 minutes at least.
8 Use a Meat Tenderizer
No, we don’t mean the big, spiky mallet that is commonly found in kitchens all over the world. There are thousands of products with formulas that can do the job by applying it to the meat if you don’t want to hit your steak and make it lose its shape. Most of these products contain a chemical component called Papain.
From a medical point of view, this powerful enzyme helps carry out a lot of process in the body either by enhancing minor chemical that could use the boost or by breaking down protein chains quicker. Papain can be used to improve digestion, to treat the skin after a mild irritation or to treat ulcers. The chemical is also very resistant to fungus, and it improves the immune system against cancerous cells.
When it comes to bee stings, Papain has been proven to dissolve the main protein contained in Apitoxin and takes away all sorts of pains and discomfort on the skin very quickly. To treat bee sting wound just mix a teaspoon of meat tenderizer and four spoons of water and apply it on the affected area. Let it act for at least 30 minutes.
9 Use some Aloe Vera
Aloe Vera is one of the most popular plants around the world, very well regarded by scientists in the medical community for its multiple healing properties. Indians use it as a natural remedy for constipation and a lot of stomach-related illnesses.
The Chinese use it to treat fungi-related infections and most Westerns nations include it in beauty and fitness products. The plant is a natural source of vitamins A, B12, C, E as well as folic acid and choline. It also carries minerals to the bloodstream such as calcium, copper, selenium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.
In its raw form, Aloe Vera can be used to treat all types of burns, rashes and any kind of skin irritation. In processed form, it can help treat colds and the flu, or it can be used to treat your hair and make it look healthier.
To treat a bee sting, just break a leaf and pour the gel contained on it directly on the affected area. Let it rest until the itching stops. Beware though! Raw Aloe Vera can stain your clothes permanently if you are not careful.
10 Make your Own Bee Balm
This is more a preventive measure rather than an emergency treatment, but it's good to take it into account if you like living in the wild or if you live in the countryside. When you are outdoors for too long, you are very likely to be affected by bee's strings more frequently. You can create your own bee balm to treat a bee sting on the spot and avoid the need to rush for a homemade remedy.
To create this simple compound, you just need a couple of spoons of beeswax, a spoon of coconut oil, and another one of lavender oil. Place all these ingredients into a pot and boil them until they melt. Mix them for a while until they form a single balm and let it cool down for a couple of hours. If you are taking a long walk in the forest, or if you are working your garden take this balm with you in a little tin and apply it on the affected area after removing the bee sting.
Closing Thoughts and Means of Prevention
As you probably are able to gather by now, although bee stings can be very painful, they are not really dangerous at all if you are not allergic. An attack by a bee swarm is another entirely different issue, and that surely demands medical treatment on the spot. But if you are casually strolling on the park or making contact with nature on the countryside and a single bee stings you, you are going to be fine by applying any of the home remedies mentioned before.
If you love to hang out outdoors, you still ought to take precautions even if you have tolerance to bee stings. Try to avoid walking out barefoot whenever possible, especially if you are doing yard work. If you happen to stumble onto a beehive, don't even stare at it for too long, they are best left alone. Avoid wearing sweet essences on you such as fruit-related deodorants or perfumes. Keep your clothes plain and conventional when you are outdoors. Bright colors and flower-prints call their attention.
If you happen to bring food with you, try to have paper napkins to cover whatever you are having if you stop eating, bees have a powerful sense of smell and they are very much attracted to the odors of processed meals, especially if they have sugar on it. If you are driving in the countryside, don't do it with your windows open, if you must ride a motorcycle, use a helmet that covers all your face, not just your head.