• Jessica Evans

What to do if you get stung by a bee


So I’ve been going on about bees for a few weeks now. As cool as they are, bees can hurt you. Just as it’s important to know what to do if you encounter a snake, I think it’s important that people know what to do if they get stung by a bee. Here’s what to do if you get stung.

1. Prevention is better than cure, as always

Just as with snakes, bees are not out to get you. They’re not evil, and they don’t want to use their sting.

Unlike wasps, honey bees can only sting once and, when they do, they die. So really, if a bee happens to be buzzing around you, don’t panic. It’ll leave as soon as it realises you’re not a flower.


Photo by Thomas Stephan on Unsplash.

Avoid killing bees. Don't swat at them, don't squish them, and don't spray them with chemicals. Bees can smell when another bee has been killed, and it triggers their ‘attack mode’. Basically, the more bees you kill, the more show up, ready to fight, and soon enough you’ll have a mini swarm to deal with.

If you happen upon an unwanted hive somewhere on your property, be sure to dispose of it responsibly. If you don’t, your safety is at risk.

2. Get the sting out

The first thing to do if you get stung is to remove the sting. The sting will continue releasing venom as long as it is in your skin.

The trick is to remove it correctly. Bee stings sit in the skin slanting in a particular direction. Using a card, you must remove it in the direction of the slant, rather than against it. If you go against it, you land up squeezing more venom into yourself.


Photo by Wix.

3. Wash the area

Rinse the injured area with soap and cold water to get rid of any remaining dirt or venom.


Photo by Wix.

4. Look out for allergies

If you know you’re allergic to bee stings, you should have medication on you. Take it and get to a hospital as soon as possible.

If you’re uncertain of your allergy status, keep an eye out for symptoms of an allergic reaction. Symptoms include nausea, trouble breathing, swelling of the lips, throat or tongue, dizziness, a rash, or pale skin colour.

If you notice any of the symptoms developing, call emergency services.

How bee stings work

A honey bee’s sting is a modified ovipositor (a structure insects use to lay eggs inside something). But bees use this as a sting.

Honey bees have barbed stings, which means it can’t be removed once inserted into a victim, so when she pulls away, the sting stays behind and pulls out her insides. Glamourous right?


The whole stinging system consists of a venom gland inside the body of the bee. This produces the venom which causes cell damage to the victim.

The venom is then stored in a venom sac, still inside the body of the bee.

A tube connects this to the stinger itself, which pokes out of the bee’s body.

Allergies

Normally, the venom that bees produce is neutralised by histamines that our bodies produce when we get stung. Histamines cause our blood vessels to get bigger, enabling immune cells to reach the site faster and neutralise the sting.

People with bee allergies produce too much histamine. This means that their blood vessels get too big, and they can’t control their blood pressure. Low blood pressure means that the circulatory system is no longer efficient at delivering oxygen to the cells, resulting in anaphylactic shock.

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