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Common Cents Solution

Claim:   Taping a penny to the site of a bee sting will ease the pain.

PROBABLY FALSE

Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, July 2006]

Just wanted to share a bit of information for school. A couple of weeks ago I was unfortunate enough to get stung by both a bee and hornet while working in the garden. My arm swelled up so off to the doctor I went. The clinic gave me cream and an antihistamine.

The next day the swelling was getting progressively worse so off to my regular doctor I went. Infected arm - needed an antibiotic. What was interesting is what the Dr. told me. The next time you get stung put a penny on the bite for 15 minutes. I thought, wow, next time (if there ever is one) I will try it.

Well that night Shelley's niece got stung by two bees. When she came over to swim I looked at the bite and it had already started to swell. So off I went to get my money. Taped a penny to her arm for 15 minutes. The next morning, there was no sign of a bite. Wow , were we surprised. Her niece, we decided, just wasn't allergic to the sting.

Well guess what happened again on Saturday night. I was helping Shelley dead head her flowers and guess what, you are right , I got bit again two times by a hornet on my left hand. Was I ticked. I thought here I go again having to go to the doctor for yet another antibiotic. Well I promptly went into the house, again got my money out and taped two pennies to my bites and then sat and sulked for 15 minutes. The penny took the sting out of the bite immediately. I still wasn't sure what was going to happen.

In the meantime the hornets were attacking Shelley and she got bit on the thumb. Again the penny. The next morning I would only see the spot where he had got me. No redness, no swelling. Went over to see Shelley and hers was the same. Couldn't even tell where she got bit. Then Shelley got stung again on Monday night on her back cutting grass. This penny thing is going to make us money at school. Again it worked.

Just wanted to share the marvelous information in case any of you are experiencing the same problem at home. We need to have a stock of pennies on hand at school.

The Dr. said somehow the copper in the penny counteracts the bite. I would never had believed it. But it definitely does work.
 

Just wanted to share a bit of information for school. A couple of weeks ago I was unfortunate enough to get stung by both a bee and hornet while working in the garden. My arm swelled up so off to the doctor I went. The clinic gave me cream and an antihistimine. The next day the swelling was getting progressively worse so off to my regular doctor I went. Infected arm - needed an antibiotic. What was interesting is what Dr. Milkovic told me. The next time you get stung put a penny on the bite for 15 minutes. I thought, wow next time (if there ever is one) I will try it.

Well that night Shelley's niece got stung by two bees. When she came over to swim I looked at the bite and it had already started to swell. So off I went to get my money. Taped a penny to her arm for 15 minutes. The next morning, there was no sign of a bite. Wow were we surprised. Her niece we decided just wasn't allergic to the sting.

Well guess what happened again on Saturday night. I was helping Shelley dead head her flowers and guess what, you are right I got bit again two times by a hornet on my left hand. Was I ticked. I thought here I go again having to go to the doctor for yet another antibotic. Well I promptly went into the house, again got my money out and taped two pennies to my bites and then sat and sulked for 15 minutes. The penny took the string out of the bite immediately.

Dr. Milkovic said somehow the copper in the penny counteracts the bite. I would never had believed it. But it definitely does work.
 

Origins:   The friendly heads-up quoted above, which began circulating in e-mail in August 2006, is often prefaced with the authoritative claim that "This comes from a person who works at a school in Tilbury and info came from local doctor," "This came from a friend," or "This is from a teacher!" While we don't know who penned the e-mail, it's possible that person gained the idea from this suggestion, which was added to a British household tips web site in July 2006:
Immediately after the sting, place a clean penny over the sting. Supposedly, there is a chemical reaction with the copper in the penny which causes the pain to stop and the poison to be drawn out. I have 5 active sons and have used this method 100 times in 20+ years. Thats it! Thats all there is to it! try it on a child and the crying will stop quickly.
There appears to be nothing magical about pennies (which in the U.S. are coins now composed of 97.5% zinc slugs coated with 2.5% copper) and insect stings. Taping one to a victim's arm is not known to be an effective counter to such injuries. Other than that one tip on a British site, we One cent piece were unable to find mention of this treatment in any of the sources we checked, and we certainly encountered any number of other purported bee sting "cures."

Folk medicine is rife with such suggestions. Each is said by its proponents to greatly reduce or even eliminate swelling and soreness inflicted by stinging insects. While no such list could ever be complete (given that people are constantly trying new things, then vehemently swearing by them, even as their "miracle cures" fail to work for anyone else), the more commonly-recommended folk remedies to be applied to the sites of stings are:
  • A paste of baking soda and water
  • Vinegar
  • Ice
  • A paste of Aspirin and water
  • Tobacco juice
  • A paste of vinegar, baking soda, and meat tenderizer
  • Toothpaste
  • Raw onion
Of those, ice looks to be the most effective. Those who instead turn to their physicians for relief from bee stings will likely be prescribed oral antihistamines and/or topical (cream or ointment) cortisteroid preparations.

Key to any recovery, however, is removing the bee's stinger from the wound as soon after the attack as possible. Whereas some say it doesn't matter how the item is extracted, others assert the importance of eschewing the use of tweezers and instead advocate scratching the site in
hopes of catching the edge of the stinger and so easing it out. Behind this recommendation lies the idea that the venom sac remains attached to the stinger, thus any pinching of the organ will force further venom into the victim.

For most people, being stung by a bee amounts to no more than a transitory annoyance: the site of the attack hurts like the dickens for a bit, and a hard swollen lump (which then becomes red and itchy) forms there. However, some people are allergic to the venom injected by bees and thus can potentially lose their lives in short order if appropriate medical intervention is not provided in time. About 100 people a year die from allergic reactions to bee stings.

You're having an allergic reaction to the sting if there is subsequent swelling beyond the site of attack (especially if that swelling affects the face or the neck), or have difficulty breathing, find yourself suddenly wheezing or feeling dizzy, or experience a drop in blood pressure. Get medical help if any of those happen.

Barbara "bee aware" Mikkelson

Additional information:
  Merck on Stings   Bee, Wasp, Hornet, and Ant Stings
  (Merck)
  Bee Sting Allergy   Bee Sting Allergy
  (Milton S. Hershey Medical Center)
Last updated:   19 May 2009

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