How to Treat a Bee Sting

woman holding ice pack to arm to treat a bee sting

Each bee and wasp sting is different. So, treating your sting well is dependent on what symptoms you experience and the severity. But don’t worry! We’ve covered all the bases. Below, you’ll find an easy 5-step plan for a basic sting. Then, keep reading for more thorough information.

How to Treat a Bee Sting in 5 Steps

Always call 911 if you think you are experiencing an allergic reaction.

Swelling arm from sting
Total Time Needed: 5 minutes

Required Tools:

- A Credit or Gift Card
- An Ice Pack

Optional Tools:

- Hydrocortisone Cream
- Ibuprofen
- Antihistamine

Steps to Treat a Bee Sting

Step 1 : Stay Calm
Even though you may be surprised or afraid, remain calm. Walk to a safe area where you can treat your injury.
person going inside a house
Step 2 : Remove the Stinger
Bees leave their stinger in the sting site. Scrape the stinger out with a credit or gift card. Never squeeze!
credit card for removing bee sting by scraping
Step 3 : Apply a Cold Compress
Grab an ice pack or other cold item. Apply it to the sting site to reduce swelling.
woman applying cold compress to a her painful sting
Step 4 : Use Additional Remedies
Feeling itchy or in pain? Try taking the recommended doses of ibuprofen or an antihistamine. You can also apply hydrocortisone cream.
Step 5 : Watch Your Symptoms
Bee stings are serious! Some people develop severe allergic reactions. Talk to an allergist or call 911 if your symptoms are concerning.
Man scratching his arm wondering if bee stings get worse each time

GO IN-DEPTH: What to do after a sting

ACT Calm – Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets can sting more than once. If they sense your fear, the situation may become more chaotic. Instead, take a deep breath.

BE Aware of Your Surroundings – Do you need to move somewhere safe? Carefully move indoors and away from danger.

CONSIDER Your Symptoms – Are you allergic to bee stings? If so, grab your epinephrine pen. Call 911 if necessary! Even if you’ve never had an allergic reaction before, pay attention to your symptoms and let someone know what has happened. Sometimes severe allergic reactions, also called anaphylaxis, can be delayed.

ABCs of Bee Sting allergic reaction time frame

How to treat a bee sting based on your symptoms

After you have ensured your safety, it’s time to treat your bee sting. Reactions vary between people, but also between stings. The symptoms you experience this time may not be like the last time you were stung. 

Treating Common Bee Sting Symptoms

The most common bee sting symptoms are:

  • Burning
  • Slight swelling
  • A red welt

Apply an ice pack or cool compress for relief. These symptoms will likely resolve within a few hours.

Treating Moderate Bee Sting Symptoms

Moderate bee sting symptoms are:

  • Reasonable swelling at the sting site
  • Itchy and watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Rash
If you’re itchy or in pain, there are a few treatment options available. For itchiness, try using hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. Aloe vera can be soothing as well! Or you can take an antihistamine pill, like Benadryl. For pain, try an anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen.

Treating Severe Bee Sting Symptoms

Here is a list of more serious bee sting symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives or swelling
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest

If you experience any of these symptoms, you may be having a severe allergic reaction. Use a prescribed epinephrine pen if you have one.  Immediately call 911. Then, make sure to follow up with an allergist about how to treat bee sting allergies.

Now you know how to treat bee stings

Next time you get a bee sting, you’ll know what to do! First, follow our ABC’s: act calm, be aware of your surroundings, and consider your symptoms. Then remove the stinger and treat your symptoms. It’s also incredibly important that you follow up with an allergist if your symptoms are concerning. Bee sting allergic reactions kill at least 60 people each year!2 Take your symptoms seriously and prevent an emergency.

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