How to treat a Bee Sting and Identify an Allergic Reaction

Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM explains what to do in case of a bee sting, how to treat it, and what to watch for in terms of allergic reactions to bee stings.

Spring and summer are wonderful seasons for getting outside and enjoying nature. It’s important to remember, though, that humans aren’t the only species out and about in the warmer weather. We share our peaceful natural spaces with many little creatures, some of whom can cause some pain if we encounter them. Bee stings are something that can happen quickly and cause pain to the average person, but can cause much worse effects for someone who is allergic to them. Do you know what to do in case of a bee sting? Just in time for the warmer weather, here’s a guide on how to treat bee stings and identify an allergic reaction.

Be aware that the most important thing to do is to get the stinger out as quickly as possible. A bee’s stinger releases venom the entire time it’s in a person’s skin, so the longer it stays in, the more pain and swelling the person will experience. Another note: the following apply not only to bee stings but also to the stings of wasps and hornets.

Keep your cool. If you are stung by something, walk calmly away from the area. While bees are typically only able to sting once, wasps and hornets can sting again after they’ve already stung you. To avoid additional stings, get out of the vicinity of the bugs.

Get the stinger out of the skin. Wasps and hornets don’t leave their stingers behind, but if you were stung by a bee, there’s likely to be a stinger in your skin. You can remove it by scraping over it with a piece of gauze, your fingernail, or even a credit card, but never use tweezers to pull out a stinger. Tweezers can squeeze the stinger and cause it to release more venom into your skin.

Wash the area that has been stung with soap and water. This will help to reduce the chance of a bacterial infection resulting from the sting.

Use a cold pack to ease pain and swelling. If this does not help, or the swelling moves to another part of your body, seek emergency medical attention as quickly as possible.

Try over-the-counter pain relievers. A sting from a bee, wasp, or hornet can be very painful, but the pain can often be alleviated with medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Follow the instructions on the label for appropriate dosage.

Signs of an allergic reaction. Localized swelling of the sting site is not an allergic reaction. Systemic symptoms, i.e. symptoms away from the sting site are of concern. Swelling, especially in your face or neck, can be a sign of an allergic reaction. Also, pay attention to other symptoms of allergic reaction like trouble breathing, nausea, dizziness, or hives. Now is the time to go to the emergency department.

For most people, bee stings do not cause a severe reaction. It’s important to pay attention after someone has been stung, though, because serious symptoms could be a sign of an allergic reaction. Do not ignore even a mild allergic reaction. A mild allergic reaction will be more severe if an individual is stung again, possibly resulting in anaphylactic shock.  Seek help from an experienced, board-certified allergist highly trained in testing for stinging insect allergies and prescribing life saving treatment.  Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more.