Bee Wasp or Hornet Sting

Bee Wasp or Hornet Sting

Bees, wasps, and hornets are part of a family of insects that can sting people. These stings can cause pain and inflammation, but they are usually not serious.

However, some people may have an allergic reaction to a sting. This can cause the symptoms to be more severe.

What increases the risk?

You may be at a greater risk of getting stung if you:

  • Provoke a stinging insect by swatting or disturbing it.
  • Wear strong-smelling soaps, deodorants, or body sprays.
  • Spend time outdoors near gardens with flowers or fruit trees or in clothes that expose skin.
  • Eat or drink outside.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • A red lump in the skin that sometimes has a tiny hole in the center. In some cases, a stinger may be in the center of the wound.
  • Pain and itching at the sting site.
  • Redness and swelling around the sting site. If you have an allergic reaction (localized allergic reaction), the swelling and redness may spread out from the sting site. In some cases, this reaction can continue to develop over the next 24–48 hours.

In rare cases, a person may have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic reaction) to a sting. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction may include:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Raised, itchy, red patches on the skin (hives).
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Tightness in the chest or chest pain.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Redness of the face (flushing).
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Swollen tongue, lips, or face.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is usually diagnosed based on your symptoms and medical history as well as a physical exam. You may have an allergy test to determine if you are allergic to the substance that the insect injected during the sting (venom).

How is this treated?

If you were stung by a bee, the stinger and a small sac of venom may be in the wound. It is important to remove the stinger as soon as possible. You can do this by brushing across the wound with gauze, a fingernail, or a flat card such as a credit card. Removing the stinger can help reduce the severity of your body’s reaction to the sting.

Most stings can be treated with:

  • Icing to reduce swelling in the area.
  • Medicines (antihistamines) to treat itching or an allergic reaction.
  • Medicines to help reduce pain. These may be medicines that you take by mouth, or medicated creams or lotions that you apply to your skin.

Pay close attention to your symptoms after you have been stung. If possible, have someone stay with you to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction. If you have any signs of an allergic reaction, call your health care provider. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction, your health care provider may give you an inhaler or injectable medicine (epinephrine auto-injector) to use if necessary.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Wash the sting site 2–3 times each day with soap and water as told by your health care provider.
  • Apply or take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • If directed, apply ice to the sting area.
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Do notscratch the sting area.

If you had a severe allergic reaction to a sting, you may need:

  • To wear a medical bracelet or necklace that lists the allergy.
  • To learn when and how to use an anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection. Your family members and coworkers may also need to learn this.
  • To carry an anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection with you at all times.

How is this prevented?

  • Avoid swatting at stinging insects and disturbing insect nests.
  • Do notuse fragrant soaps or lotions.
  • Wear shoes, pants, and long sleeves when spending time outdoors, especially in grassy areas where stinging insects are common.
  • Keep outdoor areas free from nests or hives.
  • Keep food and drink containers covered when eating outdoors.
  • Avoid working or sitting near flowering plants, if possible.
  • Wear gloves if you are gardening or working outdoors.
  • If an attack by a stinging insect or a swarm seems likely in the moment, move away from the area or find a barrier between you and the insect(s), such as a door.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your symptoms do not get better in 2–3 days.
  • You have redness, swelling, or pain that spreads beyond the area of the sting.
  • You have a fever.

Get help right away if:

You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These include:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Tightness in the chest or chest pain.
  • Light-headedness or fainting.
  • Itchy, raised, red patches on the skin.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Diarrhea.
  • A swollen tongue or lips, or trouble swallowing.
  • Dizziness or fainting.

Summary

  • Stings from bees, wasps, and hornets can cause pain and inflammation, but they are usually not serious. However, some people may have an allergic reaction to a sting. This can cause the symptoms to be more severe.
  • Pay close attention to your symptoms after you have been stung. If possible, have someone stay with you to make sure you do not have an allergic reaction.
  • Call your health care provider if you have any signs of an allergic reaction.

Bee, Wasp, or Hornet Sting, Pediatric

Bees, wasps, and hornets are part of a family of insects that can sting people. These stings can cause pain and inflammation, but they are usually not serious. However, some children may have an allergic reaction to a sting. This can cause the symptoms to be more severe.

What increases the risk?

Your child may be at greater risk of getting stung if he or she:

  • Provokes a stinging insect by swatting or disturbing it.
  • Wears strong-smelling soaps, deodorants, or body sprays.
  • Spends time outside in clothes that expose skin.
  • Plays outdoors, especially near gardens with flowers or fruit trees.
  • Eats or drinks outside.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • A red lump in the skin that sometimes has a tiny hole in the center. In some cases, a stinger may be in the center of the wound.
  • Pain and itching at the sting site.
  • Redness and swelling around the sting site. If your child has an allergic reaction (localized allergic reaction), the swelling and redness may spread out from the sting site. In some cases, this reaction can continue to develop over the next 24–48 hours.

In rare cases, a child may have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic reaction) to a sting. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction may include:

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
  • Raised, itchy, red patches on the skin (hives).
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Abdominal cramping.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Tightness in the chest or chest pain.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Redness of the face (flushing).
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Swollen tongue, lips, or face.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is usually diagnosed based on your child’s symptoms and medical history as well as a physical exam. Your child may have an allergy test to determine whether he or she is allergic to the substance that the insect injected during the sting (venom).

How is this treated?

If your child was stung by a bee, the stinger and a small sac of venom may be in the wound. It is important to remove the stinger as soon as possible. You can do this by brushing across the wound with gauze, a fingernail, or a flat card such as a credit card. Removing the stinger can help reduce the severity of the body’s reaction to the sting.

Most stings can be treated with:

  • Icing to reduce swelling in the area
  • Medicines (antihistamines) to treat itching or an allergic reaction.
  • Medicines to help reduce pain. These may be medicines that your child takes by mouth, or medicated creams or lotions that you apply to your child’s skin.

Make sure to watch your child carefully after he or she has been stung. If your child has any signs of an allergic reaction, call your child’s health care provider. If your child has ever had a severe allergic reaction, your child’s health care provider may give you an inhaler or injectable medicine (epinephrine auto-injector) to use if necessary.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Wash the sting site 2–3 times a day with soap and water as told by your child’s health care provider.
  • Apply or give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider. Do notgive your child aspirin because of the association with Reye syndrome.
  • If directed, apply ice to the sting area.
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your child’s skin and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Do notlet your child scratch the sting area.

If your child had a severe allergic reaction to a sting:

  • Your child may need to wear a medical bracelet or necklace that lists the allergy.
  • Your child may need to carry an anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection at all times.
  • You may need to learn when and how to use an anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection. Your child’s teachers, caregivers, and other family members may also need to learn this.

How is this prevented?

  • Make sure your child knows not to swat at stinging insects or disturb insect nests.
  • Do notuse fragrant soaps or lotions on your child.
  • Have your child wear shoes, pants, and long sleeves when spending time outdoors, especially in grassy areas where stinging insects are common.
  • Keep outdoor areas free from nests or hives.
  • Keep food and drink containers covered when eating outdoors.
  • Have your child avoid playing near flowering plants, if possible.
  • If an attack by a stinging insect or a swarm seems likely in the moment, your child should move away from the area or find a barrier between herself or himself and the insect(s), such as a door.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child’s symptoms do not get better in 2–3 days.
  • Your child has redness, swelling, or pain that spreads beyond the area of the sting.
  • Your child has a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child who is younger than 3 months has a temperature of 100°F (38°C) or higher.
  • Your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These include:
    • Wheezing or difficulty breathing.
    • Tightness in the chest or chest pain.
    • Light-headedness or fainting.
    • Itchy, raised, red patches on the skin.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Abdominal cramping.
    • Diarrhea.
    • A swollen tongue or lips, or trouble swallowing.
    • Dizziness or fainting.

Summary

  • Stings from bees, wasps, and hornets can cause pain and inflammation, but they are usually not serious. However, some children may have an allergic reaction to a sting. This can cause the symptoms to be more severe.
  • Make sure to watch your child carefully after he or she has been stung.
  • Call your child’s health care provider if your child has any signs of an allergic reaction.
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