How To Treat Bee and Wasp Stings

 By: Ellen Sullivan
A fun summertime day or plans to get that yard work done can quickly fade away when a bee or wasp shows up on the scene and someone gets stung!Most stings from bees or wasps typically don’t require medical attention although may cause discomfort. However, there are times when a person who has been stung does need medical attention and sometimes immediate action to help prevent shock or in some cases death. When in doubt call a healthcare provider, visit an urgent care center, or go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Here is what medical experts such as WebMD suggest to do following a sting:

Remove the Stinger  – Scrape the area with a fingernail or use tweezers to remove it. Don’t pinch the stinger — that can inject more venom.

 Control Swelling. -Ice the area. If you were stung on your arm or leg, elevate it. Remove any tight-fitting jewelry from the area of the sting. As it swells, rings or bracelets might become hard to get off.

Treat Symptoms– For pain, take an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to anyone under age 18.

For itchiness, take an antihistamine. You can also apply a mixture of baking soda and water or calamine lotion.

Follow-Up – It might take 2-5 days for the area to heal. Keep it clean to prevent infection

Experts at indicate that medical problems from bee and wasp stings are broadly broken down into two categories:

Local reactions (only the part of the body near the sting is affected)

  • Immediate pain, redness, swelling, and itching at the sting site may occur.
  •  A large (greater than four inches across) local reaction may develop over the next 12-36 hours.
  •  A bacterial skin infection, although uncommon, may also begin during the first 12-36 hours (or even after the first few days).
  •  These may cause an enlarging area of redness at the sting site. It may be difficult to tell a local skin reaction and a local bacterial skin infection apart.

Systemic or allergic reactions (parts of the body away from the sting are affected)

  • Hives (raised itchy bumps on the skin) and itching all over the body
  •  Swelling of the mouth or throat or both
  • Wheezing
  •  Shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing
  •  Nausea
  •  Vomiting
  •  Anxiety
  •  Chest pain
  •  In severe cases, marked difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and even death may occur.

Call 911 immediately if the person has:

  •  Trouble breathing
  •  Feelings of faintness or dizziness
  •  Hives
  •  A swollen tongue
  •  A history of severe allergy reaction to insect stings

WebMD outlines these steps if the person has if the person does have severe allergy symptoms (anaphylaxis):

 Call 911

  •  Seek emergency care if the person has these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), even if there are no symptoms:
  •  Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  •  Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
  •  Hoarseness or trouble speaking
  •  Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
  •  Fast heartbeat or pulse
  •  Skin that itches, tingles, swells, or turns red
  •  Anxiety or dizziness
  •  Loss of consciousness

 Inject Epinephrine Immediately – If the person has an anaphylaxis action plan from a doctor for injecting epinephrine and other emergency measures, follow it. Otherwise, if the person carries an epinephrine shot or one is available:

  •  Inject epinephrine if the person is unable to.
  •  If the person has a history of anaphylaxis, don’t wait for signs of a severe reaction to inject epinephrine.
  •  Read and follow patient instructions carefully.
  •  Inject epinephrine into outer muscle of the thigh. Avoid injecting into a vein or buttock muscles.
  •  Do not inject medicine into hands or feet, which can cause tissue damage. If this happens, notify emergency room staff.
  •  The person may need more than one injection if there’s no improvement after the first. For an adult, inject again after 10 to 20 minutes. For a child, inject again after 5 to 30 minutes.

 Do CPR if the Person Stops Breathing

  •  For a child, start CPR for children
  •  For an adult, start adult CPR.

 Follow Up

  •  Make sure that someone stays with the person for 24 hours after anaphylaxis in case of another attack.
  •  Report the reaction to the person’s doctor.


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