Updated January 15, 2023
If you’ve just been stung by a bee, wasp or yellow jacket, you have my sympathies. That sucks.
In addition to the obvious and immediate pain, you may also have a minor allergic reaction that causes redness, pain, and swelling around the site of the sting. The immediate pain of the sting will fade within a few hours and your symptoms may subside within at least 24-48 hours.
However, if you still have wasp sting swelling after 48 hours, or if you're allergic or have had a particularly bad reaction to a bee sting, then it’s time for some treatment.
Read on for some practical tips and home remedies for how to deal with the symptoms of a wasp sting on how to treat a bee sting or wasp sting if it’s still swelling after 48 hours.
Determine if You Have an Allergic Reaction to the Insect Sting
First things first. This is an important one. You need to determine if you are having a serious allergic reaction to a bee sting.
For people who aren't allergic, bee and wasp stings are painful and annoying, but it's usually not life threatening if they get stung. But for those with a serious sting allergy like anaphylaxis, a sting may cause an anaphylactic reaction, which can be life threatening.
Those who are aware that they are allergic to bee stings are often equipped with an EpiPen on hand in case of an emergency.
The EpiPen is a device that people use to inject themselves with a pre-loaded amount of epinephrine. This provides a quick way to reduce the symptoms of anaphylaxis in the case that they have a severe reaction to a bee sting. Even after using the EpiPen, though, people should still call 911 or go to the emergency room without delay. They may need first aid, further medical care and observation there.
If you generally feel uncomfortable after being stung and have a rash or develop hives at the affected area within a few hours, that is usually indicative that you have an allergic reaction and may require medical help.
But if your symptoms develop later on and the pain persists for more than 48 hours, that’s when the treatment should begin at the earliest possible time.
Symptoms of a wasp sting
The symptoms of a wasp or bee sting can depend on your body's sting reaction. Generally, stings can cause painful, itchy redness and swelling at the spot where you were stung. In some cases, severely allergic reactions can result from wasp stings too. It's very important to monitor your symptoms for any signs of a systemic reaction. If you experience difficulty breathing, vomiting or feel faint after being stung by a wasp, seek medical help immediately.
Remove the stinger
The first thing you should do when you get stung by a wasp is to remove the stinger as soon as possible. Scraping it off with your fingernail or using tweezers can help to reduce the amount of venom that enters your body, reducing the severity of reactions. If you neutralize the venom, large local reactions can be reduced as well.
The difference between a bee and wasp sting
While bees die after stinging something, wasps can sting multiple times. This makes it easier for them to cause a systemic reaction if they manage to sting multiple times in one area. Additionally, the venom from a wasp is more powerful than that of a bee, so reactions may be more severe.
Keep the Area of the Wasp Sting Clean
Once the stinger is removed, you should clean the area with soap and water to reduce any bacteria that may be present at the site of the sting. If your wasp sting is still swelling, it can keep your skin from healing. If you have any traces of the venom left on the sting site, it could continue to swell and make things worse.
The best method for removing any leftover venom or debris is gently wiping with a clean washcloth until no more debris comes off or until the pain subsides. If it still hurts to wipe, use ice or iced water over the area, as this will numb the area and be easier to remove debris from.
Apply Ice Packs to The Sting Area
If the sting is still swollen, apply an ice pack or towel soaked in cold water to the area for 10-15 minutes every two hours. The cold temperature will reduce swelling and numb the area. This works by decreasing the blood flow, which decreases inflammation.
If you don’t have any ice packs or cold compresses, you can also use a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel to reduce the pain and swelling.
Take an Anti-Inflammatory Medicine
When treating a bee sting or wasp sting, it's often an option to take an anti-inflammatory medicine that your doctor prescribes. It will help you avoid a severe allergic reaction and reduce pain and swelling in the area.
Depending on your case, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil and Aleve), or they may suggest a prescription-strength medication.
In some cases, if the doctor deems it necessary, they may also give you an injection of corticosteroids as well. This is to reduce any allergic reactions that could be caused by the sting and help reduce the swelling.
Soothe the Pain
One of the quickest and most effective ways to relieve the pain is by using a product like Dermeleve®. Though Dermeleve® is primarily used to treat itching, it is also extremely effective at soothing stinging pain of the skin. Unlike traditional OTC pain killers like Ibuprofen or Aspirin which are taken orally, Dermeleve® is applied topically to the area of the sting and will start working immediately.
Users often feel results in as little as five minutes, and experience relief for up to six to eight hours.
Additionally, because Dermeleve® doesn't contain any topical steroids like hydrocortisone cream or cortisol, it’s safe to re-apply frequently throughout the day. It's also safe for long term use, without the risk of serious side effects and withdrawal symptoms associated with the extended use of corticosteroids.
Stay Hydrated to Reduce Sting Swelling
When you have a bee sting or wasp sting, your body releases water to dilate the capillaries so it can release swelling and histamine. Staying hydrated will help decrease swelling in the area of the wasp sting.
While water is the best choice, flavored drinks like Gatorade and electrolyte drinks will also help keep your body hydrated and fight against dehydration.
Hydration isn't just limited to beverages. Eating water-rich fruits and vegetables like strawberries, pineapple, and cucumbers can also help keep your body hydrated. In fact, some studies have shown that drinking water-rich fruits and vegetables can be just as effective as drinking plain water.
See a Doctor if Your Sting is Still Swelling After 48 Hours
If you’re still experiencing pain and swelling after 48 hours of getting stung by a wasp, it will be best to call your doctor. They can offer some insight into the cause of the swelling and recommend further treatments. Depending on your condition, they may suggest an antibiotic cream to prevent infection or a corticosteroid shot to reduce inflammation.
It’s especially important for those with bee sting allergies to be seen by a doctor immediately after getting an insect sting, as their situation could worsen quickly if not treated promptly.
Keep in mind that that even if you think you've got the situation under control, it can still be beneficial to get checked out by a physician in case of any unexpected side effects.
Let's recap. Many people are afraid of bees and wasps, but unfortunately, sometimes getting a bee or yellow jacket sting is unavoidable.
While most people will have a mild reaction, those who are susceptible to a serious reaction like anaphylactic shock require medical attention right away of stung.
If you have a bee sting or wasp sting, the best thing to do is to apply a cold compress, take an anti-inflammatory medicine, use Dermeleve® to soothe the pain and/or itch, and stay hydrated. If you are still experiencing swelling after 48 hours or more, or are having an allergic reaction, then you should consult with a doctor.
Following these steps will help ensure that your bee or wasp sting is treated quickly and effectively, so that you can get back to enjoying the outdoors!