Tuesday, August 4, 2015
In fact, a study from the University of Arizona found that 90 percent of a honeybee’s venom sac is delivered within 20 seconds of the sting.
Use whatever you have on hand to get rid of the stinger, Dr. Patel says. The side of a credit card, a butter knife, and tweezers all work best—but if you’re outside, you probably won’t have any of those items handy. In that case, your fingernail will do the trick.
Regardless of what you use, be as gentle as you can while removing the stinger to avoid squeezing more venom into your body. Venom contains proteins that trigger your body to release an inflammatory molecule called a histamine, which causes itching, redness, and irritation, Dr. Patel says.
When the stinger is out, scrub up: The break in your skin can lead to an infection if bacteria are able to get in, so wash the area thoroughly with soap and water to reduce your risk—and to remove any remaining venom.
If you’re still experiencing burning, redness, and swelling at the spot of the sting, apply an ice pack to the site for about 20 minutes to soothe the reaction.
Most mild responses should resolve within a couple hours, but research suggests you can speed up the process by elevating the part of your body where you got stung. This helps reduce swelling.
The final step: Apply a hydrocortisone cream, such as Cortizone-10, which reduces skin inflammation and any itching. Then take an anti-histamine, such as Benadryl, to further reduce inflammation and your body’s allergic response.
Take extra caution if you’ve experienced anaphylaxis—a life-threatening reaction—to an allergen in the past. You’ll have a greater chance of experiencing it again when exposed to another allergen, like a sting, Dr. Patel says.
Signs of a severe reaction: swelling of your throat, tongue, or eyes; difficulty breathing; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; dizziness; and loss of consciousness. In any of these cases, call 911.
“EMS can start you on medications such as IV fluids, Benadryl, or a shot of epinephrine to control the reaction,” says Dr. Patel.
If a bee stings you, your first step may sound obvious—but it’s incredibly important: Remove the stinger as quickly as possible, says Reshma Patel, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at New York University Langone Medical Center.
Here’s why: “The stinger contains a venom sack, and the faster you scrape it off, pinch it off, or remove it, the less venom will make it into your system,” says Dr. Patel.