Nothing can spoil an outdoor adventure quite like coming up-close-and-personal with a bee’s stinger and experiencing an allergic reaction. Call it the not-so-pleasant side of Mother Nature.
Fortunately, most bee or wasp stings are not a cause for concern and 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 you be concerned, and seek medical treatment for a bee sting?
Typical Symptoms of a Bee Sting or Wasp Sting
Bee and wasp stings have similar side effects: 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. Bee sting 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 allergic reaction to an insect’s venom, leading to bee sting side effects such as 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 be concerned with the bee sting and seek medical attention if your body’s allergic reaction to the sting spreads throughout your body. This might come in the form of symptoms such as:
- Itching and hives
- Sweaty skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weak pulse
Any of these bee sting 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 bee sting is anaphylactic shock, a life-threatening swelling of the throat and tongue, which can prevent you from breathing. It is a cause for concern and 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 symptoms of this reaction, and still call 911.
Also, if you receive multiple stings, such as from a swarm of bees or wasps, that is a cause for concern so seek medical treatment immediately, as the venom can build up in the body and cause a severe allergic reaction.
For more, visit the UPMC Urgent Care webpage.