Bee stings are a common enough occurrence in the outdoors scenario and they can be quite annoying too. In most of the bee sting cases, just home treatment will suffice to alleviate the pain from the bee sting; however, for those individuals who are allergic to bee stings or who have gotten stung multiple times, there may be a serious reaction, which warrants immediate treatment.

Bee Sting

What Happens When A Bee Stings?

The venom of the bee sting contains proteins, which affect the skin cells and the immune system of the body resulting in pain and swelling around the region of the sting. In individuals who have allergy to a bee sting, the bee venom can cause a more serious immune system reaction, which needs prompt treatment.

What Increases Your Risk For A Bee Sting?

  • Individuals living in areas where there are active bees or bee hives are more prone to having a bee sting.
  • If a person's occupation or hobby needs him/her to spend time outdoors.
  • If a person has had a previous allergic reaction to a bee sting, then the risk for having it again increases.
  • Often adults are more susceptible to have severe reactions when compared to children. They also are at an increased risk to die of anaphylaxis than children.

Symptoms Produced After A Bee Sting

Different people have different reactions to a bee sting. It can vary from discomfort, mild pain to an acute allergic reaction. People can have a different type of reaction with every bee sting. Depending of the severity, given below are some of the reactions from bee stings:

Symptoms Of Minor Reaction Of Bee Sting

  • Abrupt, sharp burning pain at the site of the sting.
  • Appearance of a red welt at the site of the sting.
  • Presence of a small, white spot which indicates the site where the stinger punctured the skin.
  • Mild swelling around the region of the sting.

What To Do In Case Of Minor Reaction From Bee Sting: Majority of the times people will experience a minor reaction and it usually subsides with home treatment.

Symptoms Of Moderate Reaction From Bee Sting

  • Severe redness is seen at the site of the bee sting.
  • Swelling is seen, which slowly increases over the next couple of days.

What To Do In Case of Moderate Reaction From Bee Sting: Moderate reactions often subside in a week to 10 days. Individuals with moderate allergic reaction need not have a severe reaction the next time they are stung. In case if the allergic reaction is more severe than the previous time, then a doctor needs to be consulted.

Symptoms Of Severe Allergic Reaction To Bee Sting

Also known as anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting can be extremely fatal and life-threatening and it needs immediate medical attention. A minor percentage of people stung by a bee or some other insect can quickly develop anaphylaxis; the signs and symptoms of which are:

  • Patient experiences skin reactions, such as itching, hives, red/flushed or pale skin.
  • Patient has difficulty in breathing.
  • There is swelling of the tongue and in throat.
  • The pulse is rapid and weak.
  • Patient also has nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Patient can also experience dizziness or fainting.
  • Patient can lose consciousness.

What To Do In Case Of Severe Allergic Reaction: Patients having severe allergic reaction to a bee sting tend to have about 40 to 60% chance of developing anaphylaxis the next time they are stung. In such cases, the doctor or an allergy specialist can educate the patient regarding prevention measures like immunotherapy, which will help in avoiding a similar allergic reaction in case of a repeated bee sting.

Multiple Bee Stings: How They Happen And What Are The Symptoms Experienced?

Most of the times when bees or wasps sting people, they do so in self-defense; and are not mostly aggressive. So, a person commonly has one or a few stings.

However, if a person disrupts a bee hive or swarm of bees, then it results in getting multiple stings. Africanized honeybees tend to swarm together and sting in a group. In such cases where a person gets stung more than 10 times, then there is accumulation of venom, which causes a toxic reaction and makes a person feel sick. Getting stung by bee multiple times can be hazardous, especially in children, older adults, and those patients who have breathing problems or heart problems. Some of the symptoms of this toxic reaction of Bee Sting are:

  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Vertigo.
  • Headache
  • Losing consciousness.
  • Convulsions.
  • Fever.

What Are The Investigations Done In Case Of A Bee Sting?

The following tests are done if the patient has had a reaction to bee sting and they indicate if he/she is allergic to bee venom:

  • Skin test is done where a small amount of allergen extract is injected into the skin of the upper back or arm. If the patient is allergic to bee sting, then he/she will get a raised bump on the skin at the test region.
  • Allergy blood test helps by assessing the immune system's response to the bee venom. This is done by measuring the number of allergy-causing antibodies in the blood.

Treatment For Bee Sting

Medical treatment is not needed for bee stings, which do not cause an allergic reaction and they can be managed with home treatment and other conservative measures. Immediate treatment is required in case of multiple stings or an allergic reaction.

First Aid For Minor Reaction To Bee Sting

  • Remove the stinger immediately, as this will keep the venom sac from secreting more venom into the body.
  • You can remove the stinger using your fingernails or tweezers.
  • Next, wash the sting site with soap and water.
  • Application of ice/cold compresses helps in alleviating pain and swelling.

First Aid For Moderate Reaction To Bee Sting

  • Same as with minor stings, you should remove the stinger as soon as possible and wash the sting area with soap and water.
  • Application of ice/cold compresses helps in alleviating pain and swelling.
  • Application of calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream helps in relieving the redness, swelling and itching.
  • If the swelling or itching persists, then oral antihistamines which contain chlorpheniramine or diphenhydramine can be taken.
  • Avoid scratching at the site of the sting, as this will exacerbate the itching and swelling as well as increase the risk of infection.
  • Painkillers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen help in relieving the pain.

Treatment & First Aid For Severe Allergic Reaction To Bee Sting

  • If the patient develops signs and symptoms of severe allergic reaction after a bee sting, then immediate medical treatment should be sought. If the patient has an anaphylactic attack and if the patient has stopped breathing or if the heart has stopped beating, then cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is done.
  • Medications, such as epinephrine, to decrease the allergic response to bee stings, are given.
  • Oxygen is also given to help the patient breathe easy after multiple bee stings.
  • Antihistamines and cortisone are given intravenously after bee sting. This helps in reducing the inflammation of the air passages and improves the patient's breathing.
  • Beta-agonist, such as albuterol, can also be given to alleviate breathing symptoms after a bee sting.
  • If the bee sting is on the leg or arm, it should be kept elevated to reduce the swelling.
  • Any piece of jewelry worn at the site of the sting should be removed; otherwise if the swelling increases, it becomes difficult to remove them.
  • Epinephrine auto-injector such as EpiPen, Twinject can be prescribed by the doctor for emergencies, if the patient has had a severe allergic reaction to the bee sting. Patient should carry this auto-injector all the time. An auto-injector is a combination of syringe and a hidden needle, which when pressed against the thigh, injects a single dose of medication. Always remember to replace epinephrine after it has crossed the expiration date.

Top 14 Home Remedies For A Bee Sting

  • Apply toothpaste to the sting area. This will help in relieving the itching. You can reapply the toothpaste in 4 to 5 hours.
  • Mix equal quantities of vinegar, meat tenderizer and baking soda into a paste and apply it to the sting region. This paste helps in breaking down the toxins in the bee venom. The symptoms should alleviate within a few minutes with this remedy. You can also reapply the paste after a few hours.
  • Honey also helps in relieving the discomfort associated with the sting. Honey acts as a cooling agent and alleviates pain and swelling caused due to bee sting.
  • Placing a slice of raw onion may help with the symptoms of bee sting; however, it can also worsen the symptoms, so should be done at your own risk.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda on the sting region, and then drizzle some vinegar drops over the baking soda, so that it fizzes. Leave this mixture on until pain subsides.
  • Holding a raw potato against the sting region helps in soothing the bee sting and also fastens the healing process.
  • Application of a mixture of mud and water to the sting site helps with bee as well as wasps sting.
  • Put some mustard on the sting area to relieve the symptoms.
  • Soak the stung region in a solution of Epsom salt and water. Alternatively you can make a paste and apply it also.
  • Generous application of aloe vera gel also helps.
  • Application of freshly crushed basil and parsley leaves help in soothing the symptoms.
  • Covering the affected region with a papaya slice helps in soothing the itching and pain.
  • Apple cider vinegar can be lightly drizzled over the affected region.
  • A little dab of deodorant can also help with the symptoms.

Prevention Of Allergic Reaction To Bee Sting

  • An alert bracelet can be worn, which signifies the type of allergy the patient has; whether to a bee sting or other insects.
  • Allergy shots or immunotherapy can be considered if the patient has had a previous serious reaction to a bee sting. If these shots are given on a regular basis for a few years, they can reduce and even eliminate the allergic response to the bee venom.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: September 12, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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