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What's the best way to remove a bee stinger?

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Updated April 28, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Stinging bee

A honey bee leaves its stinger behind.

© Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

Question: What's the best way to remove a bee stinger?

There's some controversy surrounding the best method for removing a bee stinger. Some say it needs to be scraped out to avoid squeezing more venom into the skin. Others say just grab and pull. I say you probably don't care about the controversy so much and just want to know how to remove the bee stinger.

Answer: Pull it out. Brush it off. Scrape it off. Remove it in whatever way you can. It doesn't matter how you remove a bee stinger, what matters is how quickly you remove it.

There's no evidence that one way of removing a bee stinger is better than another. I could only find one published study that looked at the issue. It compared the difference in reactions between bee stingers that were removed by pulling and bee stingers that were scraped off. It's not a great study because it was a very small number of stings being compared, but I think it made the point.

In that study, the only thing that mattered was time. Pinching the stinger and pulling it out didn't cause more of a reaction than scraping it off with a credit card. What did cause a bigger reaction was leaving the stinger in the skin longer.

The moral of the story is to do what animals do: Get the stinger out! When animals get stung, they don't reach into their wallets for their library card to scrape out the stinger. They bite it off or rub up against a tree or scratch with their paws. Animals instinctively know that if it hurts it needs to go, the sooner the better.

Source:

Visscher PK, Vetter RS, Camazine S. "Removing bee stings." Lancet. 1996 Aug 3;348(9023):301-2.

 

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