Thursday, June 12, 2014

What's the best remedy for a bee sting?

When people hear that I have bees, the first question, invariably, is, "Do you ever get stung?" No. Never. And if you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn. LOL! (You can see my sting log for a running count if you like.)

Fortunately for me, I've been stung enough times that I've stopped reacting too much. A little pain and swelling for a short time, and then it's over. I don't even bother trying to treat the stings anymore. On the other hand, I know some less fortunate beeks whose reactions keep getting larger and larger with each sting.

Over the weekend, we traded sting stories and remedies. However, which one is the best? Turns out that I'm not the only person to ponder this question. 

Here is an article comparing various over-the-counter and home remedies for bee stings. Basically, this guy administered a bunch of stings and put a different remedy on each one. Then he charted the amount of relief each remedy provided. It's perhaps not the most scientific of studies, but it has a methodology.

His winners were ice and toothpaste. The runner-up was a mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and meat tenderizer. 

BTW, I keep a jar of baking soda mixed with meat tenderizer on hand so that all I have to do is add vinegar in the event of a sting. This weekend, a bee entered the house somehow and was resting in my son's shoe, unbeknownst to him. Well, he stuck his foot in there and got stung. After pulling out the stinger, I applied a mixture of baking soda/vinegar/tenderizer. Immediately, he sighed, "Oh, that feels great!" Within minutes, he claimed the pain was completely gone. The swelling was still there, though, so I suggested ice, which he refused.

I've never tried toothpaste, but perhaps, the next time I get stung, I will.


  1. Definitely going to see if I can find some meat tenderizer somewhere. The pain doesn't last long at all for me it's just the ITCHING that drives me crazy. It lasts for days afterwards and if there is any clothing rubbing on the area I can become quite unreasonable o///o
    This time I did discover that taking a really hot shower, during this the itching reaches levels no sane person can stand, then cooling the stings down as quickly as possible by running cold water onto them or icing them cleared them up in no time.

    1. That's fascinating about the heat/cold application. It would be cool if someone could explain why they work so effectively. Maybe the heat causes more blood to be sent to the area while cold reduces inflammation. Well, that's going to be my naive theory anyway.

      Regarding the meat tenderizer, most of them contain enzymes (either papain from papayas or bromelain from pineapples) that break down protein . The active component of apitoxin is primarily various proteins, I believe. But why the baking soda & vinegar? No idea. I just assumed that they're good for pretty much every other application under the sun from shining pennies and laundry stains to unclogging toilets, so why not stings, too? :)

    2. Hmmmm.. oddly I haven't thought about the mechanism of action. Strange since I used to lecture in a medical school on anti-inflammatory pharmacology. Perhaps there is some crossover with TRP ion channels. These act as monitors of heat and are what are activated by capsaicin in chilli peppers and menthol in toothpaste (though they are slightly different TRP channels; TRPV1 for Chilli/heat, TRPM8 for menthol/cold). Anyone fancy whacking some Tabasco sauce on their next beesting..... go on... it's all in the name of science!.... plus it might be funny :)

    3. Thank you for that very cool (and hot) explanation! I like it! You are a fountain of knowledge, friend. Thank you for sharing it with the rest of us!

      I certainly hope someone takes you up on experimenting with bee stings and hot sauce... who knows, maybe I'll be the one to try it... (BTW, mentally, I've already started calling this post "The Great Tabasco Fiasco.") In any case, it's nice to know that we beeks are on the cutting edge of science! :)


Thank you for your comment! I can't wait to hear what you think!