Summer is upon us, and that means the bees are plentiful.

Isn’t it the worst when you have a beautiful summer Sunday planned with family and friends only to have the day ruined by a painful bee sting? As a 7-year-old at summer camp, I got stung on my nose during a trip to the zoo. I can still remember the pain I felt that day and, to be honest, I can’t remember much else.

So how do you treat a bee sting?

First, it’s important to note that there are about 2 million people in America who are allergic to bee stings. For those people, a natural remedy alone is not enough. How do you know if you are allergic to bee stings? If you’ve been stung before and had an allergic reaction, or if you’ve never been stung before, the signs to look for are dramatic redness or swelling, hives, difficulty breathing and feelings of faintness or dizziness. Be sure to monitor the person who got stung for any of these signs while you’re treating him. If those occur, head to the doctor's office.

The first thing you have to do when you treat a bee sting is remove the stinger, if present. This can be done with fingernails or tweezers. It’s important to do this first because the stinger is attached to the venom-containing portion of the bee’s butt. If you don’t remove the stinger, that little sac will continue pumping venom into the sting site, making it hurt even more.

Once you are sure you’ve removed the entire stinger, wash the site well with soap and water to prevent infection.

Then, you can try any of these natural bee sting remedies:

  • Ice — Probably the most readily available tool, ice helps numb the site of the sting and reduce swelling by slowing blood flow to the area. Apply ice for at least 20 minutes.
  • Garlic — Some people swear by crushing a couple of garlic cloves and putting the crushed garlic and its juices directly on the sting. Cover the site with a towel and keep it there for at least 20 minutes.
  • Honey — Funny, isn’t it? “The remedy lies within the enemy.” Sounds like a tagline from this summer’s latest blockbuster action flick. But it’s true! Honey is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Some suggest putting honey directly on the sting and wrapping the area in a towel for 20-30 minutes. Anecdotally: I’ve tried this on kitchen burns, and it works for those, too!
  • Baking soda and water — Just mix into a paste, rub onto the sting site, wrap and leave on. My sister tried this on her daughter when she got stung at our family BBQ this past Memorial Day, and it seemed to work great. She was up and playing with the rest of the kids in no time.
  • Toothpaste — Like the baking soda, toothpaste is a base that will help neutralize the acidic bee sting. Apply, cover and leave on for — you guessed it — about 20 minutes.
With any of these remedies, it’s important to wash the site thoroughly when the pain has subsided. For good measure, you can apply some antibiotic cream to prevent infection. And that’s it. Now get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather!

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