4 Tips for Treating a Bee Sting

Here's what to do—and what not to do—when you find yourself in the line of fire.

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Late summer is the busiest time of year for bees. The workers are spending long days scavenging for all the nectar the hive will need to get through the winter, which means that you're more likely to run into one. Here's what to do—and what not to do—when you find yourself in the line of fire.

DO get away first.

When bees feel threatened, they release a scent to essentially call in backup from the hive. You don't want to be around when the stinging bee's posse arrives, so go inside or off the trail as soon as you can.

DON'T just yank out the stinger.

Use a credit card or fingernail to scrape it out. If you pinch and pull, you might accidentally squeeze the venom sac, pushing more poison into your skin. But if scraping doesn't work, do whatever you have to do to get the stinger out fast. It will contract and pump the venom into your skin on its own for up to a minute after the sting.

DO wash the area with soap and water, and use ice or a cold compress to relieve any pain or swelling.

If you were stung on one of your arms or legs, it's also a good idea to elevate the limb. Itchy? Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone ointment.

DON'T delay treatment if you have symptoms other than local swelling and pain.

About 2 million Americans are allergic to venomous insects. Even if you've been stung before without problems, a serious reaction can arise after any bee sting. If you develop hives, welts or tongue or facial swelling, take an antihistamine and use your EpiPen, if you have one; then call 911 or head to the ER. Your symptoms may not get worse, but don't chance it.

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