When to Seek Help for a Bee Sting

WRITTEN BY: Urgent Care
Sunday, May 1st, 2016

Nothing can spoil an outdoor adventure quite like coming up-close-and-personal with a bee’s stinger. Call it the not-so-pleasant side of Mother Nature.

Fortunately, most bee or wasp stings can be easily treated at home. In more extreme cases, a severe sting can result in an infection or allergic reaction, leading you to your doctor’s office. When should you seek medical treatment for a bee or wasp sting?

RELATED: Sting and Insect Bites – Home Treatment

Typical Symptoms of a Bee Sting or Wasp Sting

Bee and wasp stings are similar: They’re both painful and involve the insect’s venom being injected into the sting site. Both bee and wasp stings result in a red welt, minor pain (a “stinging” sensation), and minor swelling. Sometimes the puncture site appears white.

The difference? If you’re stung by a bee you should remove the stinger and attached venom sac. Just use a credit card, your fingernail, or similar object to scrape away the stinger. Don’t use tweezers — they can squeeze more venom into the sting site.

If you’ve been stung by either insect, try applying a cold pack to reduce pain and swelling. Symptoms should subside within a few hours. Take oral antihistamines, like diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl, to continue to reduce the swelling and itch.

Some people may have a stronger reaction to an insect’s venom, leading to a very large, swollen welt. The welt may grow in size over a 48-hour period. This reaction remains local to the sting site and doesn’t spread to other areas of the body.


When to Seek Medical Attention for a Bee Sting

You should seek medical attention if your body’s reaction to the sting spreads throughout your body. This might come in the form of:

  • Itching and hives
  • Paleness
  • Sweaty skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weak pulse

Any of these symptoms could be the sign of a severe allergic reaction to the insect sting, and you should immediately seek help.

The most serious threat of a sting is anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening swelling of the throat and tongue, which can prevent you from breathing. It is imperative to get to an emergency medical professional as soon as possible, even if you only have one or two symptoms.

If you have a known allergy to bees, you should use your epinephrine injector immediately to prevent this reaction, and still call 911.

Also, if you receive multiple stings, such as from a swarm of bees or wasps, seek medical treatment immediately, as the venom can build up in the body and cause a severe reaction.

For more, visit the UPMC Urgent Care webpage.

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Urgent Care

Whether it’s after your doctor’s office is closed, or any time when you can’t wait to see a doctor, UPMC Urgent Care is here to help. Our walk-in clinics provide a full range of medical services for people of all ages, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. Our 7 urgent care locations throughout western Pennsylvania are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., no appointments necessary. Read More