Living With Stings

Wasp Stinger

Wasp Stinger

The internet is full of advice and home remedies. A common remedy for bee and wasp stings is application of an aspirin paste. Does it work?

People try home remedies such as aspirin paste on a sting and the sting goes away. People may conclude that aspirin paste is a success. However, most symptoms of bee and wasp stings will dissipate within 24 hours if left untreated. A scientific evaluation of aspirin paste requires randomized testing, replication and controls. For a control, aspirin treatment must be compared to no treatment. It is not enough that the symptoms disappear after aspirin treatment;  They must dissipate faster or more completely.

Replicates are important because no two stings are completely alike. Some stings will dissipate more rapidly than others with no treatment. To prove an effect of aspirin, the results must be reproducibly better in multiple cases.

Three Australian scientists conducted a replicated, controlled study of aspirin paste. Thirty-seven patients were advised to apply aspirin paste and 19 advised to apply ice alone. After 12 h, 57% of aspirin treated patients had no swelling, but 74% of ice alone patients had no swelling. No pain after 12 h? Aspirin: 81%; Ice 95%. Redness duration? Aspirin: 6h; Ice 2h.

The bottom line: Aspirin is not effective against pain and swelling; Aspirin prolongs the redness. Based on this scientific study,treat stings with ice and forget the aspirin.

Balit CR, Isbister GK, Buckley NA. 2003. Randomized controlled trial of topical aspirin in the treatment of bee and wasp stings. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 41(6):801-8.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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4 Responses to Living With Stings

  1. So what is it in these stings that cause anaphylactic shock to some individuals?

  2. Lou Sorkin says:

    Venom from wasps and bees are also not the same because components differ. Anaphylaxis is specific to proteins so not a broad reaction to one means react to other.

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