10 Reasons Not to Go to the ER

Bee, Wasp or Yellow Jacket Sting
Unless you’re allergic, most stings are easy to treat on your own. © Gewoldi/iStockphoto

There you are, mowing your lawn, and the next thing you know, you've stepped on a bee. Bees, wasps and yellow jackets inject us with venom when they sting, and in addition to being painful, the area will typically also become itchy and swollen. The good news, though, is that almost all insect stings can be treated at home, and will heal in just a few days.

While wasps and hornets don't leave behind a stinger, bees do, and removing it — and the venom sack — is the first step in at-home first aid. Honey bees, for example, deliver their venom with a barbed stinger, and because it can take up to three minutes to pump all its poison into you, the quicker that stinger is out, the better [source: Stoppler]. Antihistamines and over-the-counter pain relievers will help reduce itching, swelling and discomfort, and applying ice to the area will also help ease pain and swelling.

Only about 3 percent of people develop hives, redness and swelling (anywhere on the body, not just near where the stinger stung), difficulty breathing and dizziness, which are signs of an allergic reaction. Mild allergic reactions are usually treated with an antihistamine and sometimes steroids. Less than 0.8 percent of those allergic reactions are life-threatening, systemic reaction called anaphylaxis, a condition that requires treatment with epinephrine. Any sign of an allergic reaction is pretty much the only time an insect bite needs immediate treatment [source: Stoppler].