Although about 50 Americans die each year from bee or wasp stings, these wounds for most people are little more than a pain in the neck, toe, arm, wherever.

Grandma might have bound a slice of raw onion over the sting or asked grandpa to spit tobacco juice on it, but there's no sure-fire cure for the sting, says beekeeping instructor Dewey Caron, associate professor of entomology at the University of Maryland.

There are several home remedies, however, that can soothe the three stages of a sting: pain, swelling and itching.

"The initial pain should go away in about five minutes," Caron said. "Many people like to apply something cool (mud or cold water) to take the victim's mind off the pain." Alcohol or chicken soup "taken internally" might do the same.

"Swelling can start a few minutes after the sting and persist a number of days," Caron said. "An ice cube in a washcloth or a paste of meat tenderizer or baking soda and water may help it feel better, but probably won't reduce the swelling." Aspirin may be helpful

Nail polish or ammonia, used by some people, can be harmful because the sting is an open wound.

First-aid cream or antihistimine ointment is beneficial when the sting reaches the itching stage. "It has a double effect of cutting down on itching and reducing the chance of infection," Caron said.

For a small minority, about 6 out of every 1,000 people, "killer bees" can be a reality if they cause an allergic reaction. If the victim experiences swelling away from the sting site-in the armpit, neck or face after being stung on the toe, for example-or tightness in the chest, dizziness, nausea, extreme itching within 15 minutes after a sting, or fainting, get him to a doctor immediately.

Most people respond quickly to a shot of Adrenalin, Caron said. Persons diagnosed as allergic may get a doctor's prescriptions for an emergency injection kit. Or they can undergo a long-term desensitization procedure.

Multiple stings may result in added discomfort, but will not increase a person's chance of an allergic reaction, said Caron. A person is either allergic or not, although some people may be allergic to the sting of on type of insect, but not another.

The term "bee sting" is often used when the actual culprit is a wasp. Honeybees rarely sting (unless you're running barefoot throuhg their field of clover and step on one). Members of the wasp family, such as the yellow jacket, are the nasty buzzers who terorize you for your soft drink.

While bees leave their stinger in their victim and die afterwards, wasps live on to sting another day. CAPTION: Picture, no caption