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Lemon Juice Soothed the Pain of a Hornet Sting

A reader offers personal experience on a remedy to take the pain out of a wasp or hornet sting.

What do you do when you get stung by a bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket? There has been significant medical research devoted to the life-threatening problem of allergic reactions to such stings.

People who have had a serious allergic reaction to a bee, wasp or hornet sting can get good protection from a program of desensitization (Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Aug., 2013). The need for this treatment, especially among children, has been questioned, however, as kids frequently fail to react to a second sting (New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 6, 1990).

Treating a Garden-Variety Sting:

There has been very little investigation on the best way to treat a bee or hornet sting in a person without allergy. Readers have shared the results of their trial-and-error experimentation and we share them with you. Here is one reader’s report:

Lemon Juice for a Hornet Sting:

Q. I stepped on a hornet and the sting felt like a piece of glass in my foot. I rushed to the refrigerator and applied the cut side of a lemon to the sting for about 20 minutes.

The pain subsided and there was no swelling or other residual effect from the sting. I thought of the lemon because a friend had told me about a young child who’d been stung about 30 times and was saved by the lemon remedy. I am a true believer.

A. Thank you for sharing your remedy. Yours is the first report we have received on lemon being helpful against a wasp or hornet stings. We were not able to find any research backing this remedy up, but we are glad it helped you.

Onions and Other Remedies for Stings:

Some readers like other wasp sting remedies, such as applying the cut surface of an onion or a cloth dipped in cool witch hazel or vinegar. Chemist Eric Block, PhD, told us that onions contain enzymes that can break down the proteins in venom. Turkish beekeepers have been using onions (and other natural approaches) on bee stings for centuries (International Forum on Allergy and Rhinology, July, 2014).

SAH reported:

“I was gardening when a yellow jacket got into my glove and stung my thumb before I could rip the glove off. Thankfully I recalled reading about onions. I immediately cut a thin red onion slice and taped it on the sting. It was instantaneous relief!”

LJ wrote:

“A couple summers ago I got stung on the foot by a wasp in my garage. I looked up home remedies for stings on your website, put baking soda on the sting then added a few drops of vinegar, left it on for a few minutes and rinsed it off. It was like magic-it didn’t hurt anymore. I was able to put my sandals on and made it to my appointment.”

KG recounted:

“A nurse suggested using meat tenderizer when my son had a lot of swelling due to a bee sting on the sole of his foot. That was many years ago, and we have been using it successfully when needed ever since. When possible I apply ice first as I think it slows the spread of venom into the circulatory system.”

What is your favorite remedy for a bee or hornet sting? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to vote on this article at the top of the page.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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