Meander Valley Gazette

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Bee stings

FeatureJoanne EisemannComment
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FEBRUARY 2018 | Lorraine Clarke

THERE IS little that can spoil the enjoyment of a summer day’s communion with nature as pointedly as a bee sting. The swelling, pain and itching can continue for days or even longer than a week.

Many recommended folk remedies fail the test of practical relief. Some touted “remedies” which are useless, include applications of vinegar, bleach, chewed ribwort plantain leaves, homeopathic preparations, ice, honey and meat tenderiser.

Even prescribed antihistamines and over the counter topical lotions do not relieve all the symptoms. None of these things neutralises the venom.

Because it is strongly acidic, bee venom is neutralised by alkaline substances. This is the reason that one home remedy, toothpaste, can be successful. But the most effective, cheapest and readily available bee sting remedy is humble sodium bicarbonate, also known as bicarb soda or baking soda, NaHCO3, found in every kitchen.

When stung by a bee, first use a fingernail or blunt knife to scrape off the stinger. This continues to pump venom into the skin for 2 – 3 minutes unless removed. Wash the area with soap and water.

If stung through clothing, there will also be some residual venom on it, so it needs to be removed and washed.

Rub the wet skin area with bicarb soda. The mild abrasion of the powder is wonderfully soothing, as it counteracts the acid in the skin. The relief will be immediate, and last for several hours. The bicarb soda treatment can be re-applied as soon as symptoms return. Either rub the dry powder onto wet skin, or make up a thick paste with a little water. Anyone liable to be stung on a frequent basis should keep a supply of bicarb handy at all times.

Wasp stings require the opposite treatment, as wasp venom is strongly alkaline. To neutralise it, use vinegar, lemon juice, citric acid or tartaric acid.

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