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How to Ease a Painful Wasp Sting with Onion

Is there a simple way to ease the pain and swelling from a wasp sting? One reader found that putting a slice of onion on the sting soothed the pain.

What do you do for a wasp sting? We have heard from many readers who report that putting a freshly cut onion on the sting can ease the pain and swelling. Is there anything to this remedy?

The Onion Remedy for a Wasp Sting:

Q. I tried your onion remedy on wasp stings. I had three stings: two on my upper lip and one on my hand.

I rubbed cut onion on my lip. Since I had two stings there, it hurt more initially.

The lip stings had hardly any swelling and only slight discomfort later in the day. My hand, however, became quite swollen and was very painful. The lip stings were totally gone in about two days but the one on my hand took over a week to resolve.

To me, this underscores the value of putting a cut onion on a wasp sting. Thanks for sharing remedies like this.

Onions Affect Inflammation:

A. We have heard from many people who have found that putting a sliced onion on a bee or wasp sting eased the pain and prevented swelling. (Read one story here.) Years ago, onion chemist Eric Block, PhD, told us that onions have enzymes that can help break down the compounds in venom that cause inflammation.

Other readers have found that apple cider vinegar mixed with baking soda and applied to the sting eases the pain. (It bubbles and fizzes quite dramatically.) Other popular remedies include Mylanta, tobacco juice or witch hazel.  Meat tenderizer mixed with water or vinegar is another standby. If you have an onion handy, we’d try that first.

Be Alert for Allergy:

There is one important caveat. If a person has a known allergy to wasp stings, an EpiPen Auto-Injector is essential for emergencies. Emergency medical services should also be called. Someone who has swelling of the face or throat or experiences difficulty breathing should be rushed into emergency care for a possible anaphylactic reaction to the sting.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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