how to treat a bee sting

Protecting against summer bug bites and stings

Do you welcome summer sun and fun, but dread the insects that come along with the season? Since bug bites and stings can range from merely annoying to life-threatening, let this advisory from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration help you be less "bugged."

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Avoiding bug bites and stings:

  • Use window screens and netting. Repair any openings.
  • Avoid wooded, brushy and grassy areas when possible
  • Avoid scented soaps, colognes, hair spray and perfumes
  • Be careful when eating and drinking outside; don't leave drinks, foods and garbage uncovered
  • Clothing considerations:
    • Bees are more attracted to whites, yellows and bright colors than to neutral colors such as tan or khaki.
    • On the other hand, light colors make it easier to spot and remove ticks
    • Clothes should fit snug and cover legs and arms
  • Do not go barefoot and shake out shoes before putting them on
  • Be vigilant around shutters or other places bees tend to build hives
  • When possible, wear long sleeves and long pants, tucked into socks or shoes
  • Use insect repellent if non-chemical methods aren't working and you spend time in wooded, tall grass areas

If you have concern about using insect repellents on yourself or children, consult a healthcare provider. If you do use repellents, be sure that you...

  • read and follow the label directions
  • store repellents out of reach of children, in a locked cabinet or shed
  • never spray directly into the face; spray on hands first, then apply to the face
  • do not use any product on pets or other animals unless the label clearly states that it is for them

Treatment for bites or stings from ticks, mosquitoes, scorpions, bees and more:

Tick bites are usually harmless, but, depending on the area and type of tick, they can infect people with Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other tick borne illnesses.

  • To remove a tick, use a fine-tipped tweezers and grip the tick as close to the skin surface as possible, trying to include the mouthparts and any skin that is within its grips. Pull straight up with steady, even pressure being careful not to twist or jerk which can cause the mouth parts to dislodge and remain embedded in the skin. Clean the bite with soap and water, rubbing alcohol or iodine scrub.
  • Do not attempt to remove the tick with heat, petroleum jelly, fingernail polish, with your fingers or any method other than described above as this can cause the tick to release fluids into the bite area.
  • If a rash or fever occurs within several weeks, seek medical attention.

Mosquito bites usually cause little more than swelling and itching. Mosquitoes can, however, transmit West Nile Fever, which can be serious -- especially for the elderly.

Desert-dwelling scorpions in the U.S. have painful bites but they are mostly harmless -- to adults. A child, older adult or pet stung by a scorpion should get immediate medical treatment.

Bee, wasp, hornet, yellow jacket stings:
In cases of severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately and use epinephrine or prescribed medication. The symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include:

  • decreasing consciousness, dizziness, weakness or numbness
  • difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • swelling of face, eyes, tongue, lips or throat
  • skin or extremities become pale, cool and moist

In case of fever or if the sting area becomes extreme painful or swollen, red and warm, or if red streaks radiate from sting:

  • See a doctor

In cases of mild reaction:

  • Bee stings: scrape out the stinger as soon as possible with a blunt knife, credit card or fingernail. Do not pull out the stinger with tweezers or finger as this can squeeze more venom into the affected area.
  • Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets do not lose their stingers.
  • Wash area with soap and water.
  • Apply a cold compress (ice wrapped in a cloth) for 10-15 minutes. Do not apply ice directly to skin.
  • Keep affected area below heart level.
  • Over the counter pain reliever, antihistamine (to reduce swelling) and 1% hydrocortisone cream (to minimize itching) may be used if needed.
City of Tucson (AZ), Department of Environmental Services provides the following tips for preventing and treating dangerous insect bites and stings in their Volunteer Training Handbook.

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Showing comment(s)
June 9, 2013
Has anyone found a bug zapper that works for mosquitoes?
Rob at
June 12, 2013
Thanks for your question, Dawn. We tried out a bug zapper at our house for a few weeks last spring. I'd empty it each morning and I remember there being only a couple mosquitoes but a tremendous amount of small moths. After reading about how ineffective bug zappers are at killing biting insects, we returned the zapper. The NY Department of Environmental Conservation offers these tips as a better solution than using bug zappers: 1) address your standing-water issues which provide mosquito breeding locations. This includes old tires, buckets, gutters, bird baths, etc., 2) run an fan in areas that you'll be occupying outdoors, and 3) use insect repellant or even oil of lemon eucalyptus:

Since your specific question, however, was whether some bug zappers are better than others at attracting mosquitoes, that same New York State article says zappers that emit mosquito phermone or carbon dioxide will attract mosquitoes better than those that rely on UV light. The downside is that you may attract more mosquitoes to your yard than you zap.
February 20, 2015
The weather channel has short video on their website that mentions the fan and insect repellent but also suggests taking a shower before going outside, which I found interesting. I guess this confirms what you said above about mosquitoes being attracted to carbon dioxide --
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