Removing Bee Stings: Speed Matters, Method Doesn't

(expanded from an article published 1996 in The Lancet 348:301-302)

P. Kirk Visscher, Ph.D.
Richard S. Vetter M.S.
Department of Entomology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521
Scott Camazine MD Ph.D
Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA 16802

Background Conventional advice on immediate treatment of honey bee stings has emphasized that the sting should be scraped off, never pinched. The morphology of the sting suggested no basis for this, and such advice is likely to slow down removal of the sting.

Methods The response to honey bee stings was assayed with a measurement of the size of the resulting sting weal. Injection of known quantities of venom demonstrated that this is a good measure of envenomization.

Findings Weal size, and thus envenomization, increased as the time from stinging to removal of the sting increased, even within a few seconds. There was no difference in the response to stings which were scraped or pinched off after two seconds.

Interpretation These data suggest that advice to patients on the immediate treatment of bee stings should emphasize quick removal, without concern regarding the method of removal.

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