Bee stings may get Julie Andrews running through her list of favourite things, but the rest of us need pain relief if we get stung, and we need it fast. Clever people always plan ahead for eventualities and stock a neat First Aid box in the home chock full of efficacious remedies. However, those of us who are badly organised have to think quickly, because there is no time to jog down to the Chemists when you are writhing in agony. Fortunately, there are things in your house that will save you.
There is a common myth that urine is a quick cure for jellyfish stings, and this suggestion also extends to bee stings. However, this is because of the ammonia in urine and, fortunately, household cleaner has better concentrations, and so is more likely to work. In fact, pure ammonia is too strong. Household cleaner containing ammonia has the right strength. This is just as good as some “over the counter” sting remedies, because they also contain ammonia as their active ingredient. Squeeze some on a cotton ball and dab it on the sting site.
Enzymes in meat tenderiser neutralise the bee venom by breaking down its protein. Mix a paste of equal parts of meat tenderiser and water and smear that on the sting site.
Acid and alkaline
Many people confuse bee and wasp stings. The theory runs that bee stings are acidic and so the pain will be reduced by applying an alkaline solution to create a balanced ph. However, the pain of the bee sting is not caused by its formic acid content, so baking soda or charcoal solutions will not help. Other homespun remedies like vinegar, lemon juice, or a slice of onion certainly won’t work. They are recommended as a way to increase acidity to combat wasp stings, but they won’t work for those either.
Things in the bathroom cabinet could help the pain, although some of these are borderline medicine, so their definition as a “household chemical” is a slight stretch of this article’s title. Orajel and Bonjela are meant to ease pain in the gums, but they can numb your sting pain just as effectively. Mint toothpaste has also been found to help the pain of a bee sting. However, this is because of its glycerine content, so pass a rainy day reading the labels on everything in the bathroom cabinet because glycerine content does help. In the case of toothpaste, the see-through type is better than the white paste, because it contains more glycerine.
The best cure
The best treatment for a bee sting is not a household chemical, but it is generally available in the home. The best way to treat the sting is to wash it with cold water and soap – maybe bring in the glycerine cure and use a clear soap – and then apply an ice pack. If you have no ice in the freezer, then a bag of frozen peas will do just as well. Press the ice (or peas) against the sting site for twenty minutes to cure the sting.