Bee, Wasp, or Hornet Sting

ExitCare ImageYour caregiver has diagnosed you as having an insect sting. An insect sting appears as a red lump in the skin that sometimes has a tiny hole in the center, or it may have a stinger in the center of the wound. The most common stings are from wasps, hornets and bees.

Individuals have different reactions to insect stings.

  • A normal reaction may cause pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site.

  • A localized allergic reaction may cause swelling and redness that extends beyond the sting site.

  • A large local reaction may continue to develop over the next 12 to 36 hours.

  • On occasion, the reactions can be severe (anaphylactic reaction). An anaphylactic reaction may cause wheezing; difficulty breathing; chest pain; fainting; raised, itchy, red patches on the skin; a sick feeling to your stomach (nausea); vomiting; cramping; or diarrhea. If you have had an anaphylactic reaction to an insect sting in the past, you are more likely to have one again.


  • With bee stings, a small sac of poison is left in the wound. Brushing across this with something such as a credit card, or anything similar, will help remove this and decrease the amount of the reaction. This same procedure will not help a wasp sting as they do not leave behind a stinger and poison sac.

  • Apply a cold compress for 10 to 20 minutes every hour for 1 to 2 days, depending on severity, to reduce swelling and itching.

  • To lessen pain, a paste made of water and baking soda may be rubbed on the bite or sting and left on for 5 minutes.

  • To relieve itching and swelling, you may use take medication or apply medicated creams or lotions as directed.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Wash the sting site daily with soap and water. Apply antibiotic ointment on the sting site as directed.

  • If you suffered a severe reaction:

  • If you did not require hospitalization, an adult will need to stay with you for 24 hours in case the symptoms return.

  • You may need to wear a medical bracelet or necklace stating the allergy.

  • You and your family need to learn when and how to use an anaphylaxis kit or epinephrine injection.

  • If you have had a severe reaction before, always carry your anaphylaxis kit with you.


  • None of the above helps within 2 to 3 days.

  • The area becomes red, warm, tender, and swollen beyond the area of the bite or sting.

  • You have an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).


You have symptoms of an allergic reaction which are:

  • Wheezing.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Chest pain.

  • Lightheadedness or fainting.

  • Itchy, raised, red patches on the skin.

  • Nausea, vomiting, cramping or diarrhea.

ANY OF THESE SYMPTOMS MAY REPRESENT A SERIOUS PROBLEM THAT IS AN EMERGENCY. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get medical help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.). DO NOT drive yourself to the hospital.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.