Merck Manuals Provides Three Steps to Take Immediately After a Bee Sting

Friday, May 25, 2018 General News
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Physician outlines warning signs of life-threatening allergic reactions

KENILWORTH, N.J., May 24, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly a million people visit the emergency room every year for bee and

wasp stings. In many cases, patients and parents can treat the symptoms of less severe reactions to a sting from home, while a small percentage suffering a more dangerous reaction must be rushed to medical care as quickly as possible.

Thomas Arnold, MD, Professor and Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine, LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport, breaks down various types of reactions to bee and wasp stings and how to treat them in a new editorial on

Dr. Arnold's editorial details what to watch for in someone who suffers a severe allergic reaction, also known as a generalized reaction. Stings in these individuals can cause anaphylaxis and can be fatal. Symptoms to watch closely for include:

  • A feeling of uneasiness, tingling sensations, and dizziness
  • Generalized itching and hives
  • Swelling of the lips and tongue
  • Wheezing and difficulty breathing
  • Collapse and loss of consciousness

Individuals experiencing these symptoms should be taken to the emergency room immediately. Patients who know they suffer generalized reactions to stings should carry an epinephrine auto-injector at all times. This injection should be used at the first sign of an allergic reaction.

At-home treatment for less severe reactions

Individuals who do not show any signs of a generalized reaction will likely suffer a less severe reaction, also known as a local reaction. Dr. Arnold recommends these three steps to taken at home to reduce pain, redness, swelling and itching.

  1. Remove the stinger with a dull-edged object – Unlike wasps and other kinds of bees, honeybees have a barbed stinger that stays in the skin after a sting, ultimately killing the bee. Remove the stinger and venom sack with a blunt object like the edge of a credit card or a butter knife by gently scraping against the skin.
  2. Apply a cool compress – Ice or another cool compress can reduce pain, while an antihistamine can help ease itching and swelling.
  3. Elevate the area – The swelling caused by a sting can be quite scary. It's not uncommon for a hand that's stung to swell to twice the size. If the sting is on an extremity that can be raised, elevating it can help reduce swelling.

In his editorial, Dr. Arnold cautions against relying on unconventional remedies with little scientific basis like using meat tenderizer, tobacco juice or baking soda to treat stings. He also offers tips to help avoid bee and wasp stings in the first place.

About The Merck Manuals and MSD Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Manuals kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a program to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit or and connect with us on social media:

For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and FacebookFor Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.


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