Take the Sting Out of Bees

It’s summertime, and the bees are buzzing. If you get stung, here’s what the experts suggest to minimize pain and swelling.

Bring Meat Tenderizer to the Rescue

Apply meat tenderizer immediately, if available. Protein enzymes in a venomous sting cause much of the inflammation. Meat tenderizers work by breaking down proteins. If you mix tenderizer with water to form a paste and then smear the paste on your sting, you will reduce pain and swelling by breaking down the enzymes in the venom. You have to do this within a few seconds after being stung, however, the experts say. So if you’re going out where you might be exposed to yellow jackets or other stinging insects, take a little container of meat-tenderizer paste with you. Make sure the label on the meat tenderizer says it contains a protein-busting component, such as papain or bromelain.

Pull Out That Stinger

Some insects, such as honeybees, will leave behind their stingers when they sting. A widespread belief is that you should scrape away the stinger with a credit card or knife edge to avoid squeezing more venom from the stinger into your skin by pinching. But experts say most of the venom is injected within 20 seconds of the sting. You can easily take that long looking through your wallet or purse to find something to scrape with. Instead, pull the stinger out of your skin and forget about scraping it.

Swallow an Antihistamine Pill

Take an antihistamine, such as Benadryl, after getting stung. This, too, will help reduce swelling.

Keep Epinephrine On Hand

Keep in mind that insect stings can trigger a life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock in highly allergic people. This requires a more sophisticated level of treatment. If you know you have these reactions, consult with your doctor on how to treat insect stings. You may need to carry the drug epinephrine with you and, if you’re stung, inject yourself with it before seeking emergency medical care.

Ditch the Bee-Sting Itch

The best way to minimize the itching of a sting is to rub ice on it, say medical specialists. Rub an ice cube or hold an ice pack on it for a few minutes and repeat as needed.

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