Treating Bee Stings

Treating Bee Stings

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 17 Jul 2015 - 16:57.


Bee stinging is a common outdoor problem. Mostly, bee stings are not just annoying and painful but can be dangerous if you are allergic to bee stings. In such a situation it may call for emergency treatment. Normally home remedies may help.

When a honey bee stings it leaves a barbed stinger in the victim's skin along with its venom sack. About less than 3% of people stung by bees have an allergic reaction to the sting of bees and wasps, and up to 0.8% experience severe anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction.

The allergic reaction after a bee sting is caused due to the venom present in the sting. This venom contains certain proteins which act on the skin cells and the immune system of the person, thereby causing swelling and pain at the site of the sting. A serious immune system reaction may be caused in patients who are allergic to bee sting venom

Bee stings can cause different reactions every time a person is stung. The symptoms vary depending on the severity of the reaction.

Mild reaction:

Most of the times a bee sting produces a mild reaction which include the following symptoms:

  • Instant, sharp burning pain at the site of sting
  • A small, white spot at the site of skin puncture
  • Redness at the sting area
  • Mild swelling around the sting area

The pain and swelling reduce within a few hours on its own.

Moderate reaction:

In some people, a bee sting can produce a stronger reaction, which includes the following symptoms:

  • Swelling at the sting site which increases by the next day
  • Extreme redness at the site

A moderate reaction may need a physician’s attention for its treatment and it takes around five to ten days to resolve.

Severe reaction:

A severe allergic reaction caused by a bee sting can be life threatening and requires emergency medical treatment. This type of reaction is seen in a small percentage of people. The symptoms include:

  • Skin reactions such as itching, hives or pale skin
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rapid but weak pulse
  • Swelling of tongue and throat
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Allergy to bee’s venom can be diagnosed the following methods:

  • Skin test: In this test, a small quantity of bee venom is injected in the skin of arm or upper back. A raised bump is seen at the site of injection if the person is allergic to bee sting.
  • Blood test: The immune system of the body produces antibodies against bee venom when it enters the blood stream. This test is used to measure the antibodies produced against the allergen (bee venom).

Skin test and blood test are used together to diagnose bee sting allergies and allergies to wasps and hornets which cause similar allergic reactions.

The risk of getting stung by bees is increased in the following conditions:

  • If one lives in an area where there are bee hives in the surrounding areas.
  • If the person’s work requires time to be spent outdoors.
  • Adults have a higher tendency of having severe reactions.

A mild to moderate reaction to bee stings can be treated by home remedies, but a severe reaction or multiple stings require medical treatment.

For mild reactions:

The following steps should be considered while treating a mild reaction at home:

  • The bee’s stinger should be removed from the site as soon as possible to avoid the further movement of venom from the stinger into the body. It can be removed by fingernails or a tweezer.
  • Wash the site of sting with soap and water.
  • Ice or cold compresses can be used to relieve pain and reduce swelling.

For moderate reactions:

  • Remove the stinger immediately.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Apply ice or cold compresses.
  • Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching, redness and swelling.
  • An oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine or chlorpheniramine may be given to reduce itching and swelling.

Emergency treatment for severe allergic reactions:

In severe allergic reactions, emergency medical treatment is required. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be done if the patient stops breathing or the heart beat stops.

The following drugs may be used in its treatment:

  • Epinephrine: This drug is used to reduce the allergic response of the body.
  • Oxygen may be given to help restore normal breathing.
  • Intravenous antihistamines and cortisone: These are given to reduce the inflammation of the tongue and throat which is required to clear the air passage for breathing.
  • A beta agonist such as albuterol may be given to relieve the symptoms of breathing.


*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.