Here’s how to find some relief after getting stung by a bee

From tending the garden to walking barefoot on the lawn, a bee sting is just a figment of spending time outside, and consequently, getting stung can sometimes just happen. As uncomfortable as it can be to experience a bee sting, you can find fast relief from a variety of topical creams and over-the-counter medications.

An allergy and immunology physician breaks down what you need to know about finding the right treatment to ease the discomfort of your bee sting, and weighs in on what you should do if the symptoms of your sting become more serious.

What to put on a bee sting

A red, inflamed, itchy lump is likely to manifest around the area where you’ve been stung. Occasionally, a white center will appear where your skin has been punctured, where the stinger of the bee will become visible, says Dr. Payel Gupta, the medical director of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at LifeMD, assistant clinical professor at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and clinical instructor at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

To alleviate the symptoms of your sting, Gupta recommends applying hydrocortisone cream to the affected area – a 1% hydrocortisone cream should do the trick. You could also try putting calamine lotion or Vaseline on the sting, she says. If you place your cream of choice in the refrigerator for a bit, upon application, “it's almost like a cool compress,” she says.

Beyond creams, there are also a variety of oral over-the-counter antihistamines that can provide relief if symptoms persist. Zyrtec (cetirizine) or Allegra (fexofenadine) and Claritin (loratadine) are common antihistamines that can help reduce any itching or swelling around the site of the sting, Gupta says.

Does honey ever go bad? Here's a quick trick for fixing crystallized honey.

What happens if a bee stinger is not removed?

Unlike wasps and bumblebees, honeybees often leave their barbed stinger in your skin after you’ve been stung. If you see the stinger, you should try to remove it, Gupta says. If it’s not removed, the stinger will continue to release venom into your skin, causing further irritation. At home, you can use sterile tweezers to try and pull the stinger out. However, it’s important that you avoid squeezing the stinger, she says.

When should I go to the ER after a bee sting?

Though rare, if you have an allergy to bees or other stinging insects, it is possible to experience a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis affects your skin, airways, stomach and heart, per Cleveland Clinic.

Although this will vary from person to person, initial symptoms are typically characterized by hives, diffused swelling and breathing difficulties. As symptoms progress, you may begin to experience “tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, and then swelling up the face to tongue, and lips and eyes,” Gupta says. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can be fatal.

Epinephrine is a life-saving medication used to treat anaphylaxis, and it is injected as a shot in your thigh, according to the Mayo Clinic. Anaphylaxis can happen within seconds, which is why it’s so important to call 911 and seek medical care at the onset of symptoms, Gupta says.

More: These are the worst cities in the US for allergy sufferers - and where it's getting worse

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What to put on a bee sting? Treatments and when to see a doctor