Getting Stung

Bee stings can be either just annoyingly painful or a lot more serious depending on if the victim is allergic to the venom. The best way to reduce any reaction to bee venom is to remove the bee sting as quickly as possible. If a bee sting victim has had any allergic reactions to bee stings in the past, consider the possibility of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

  1. Safety first! Get away from the bee. Bees release a scent when in danger to attract other bees. If you’re still around when reinforcements get there, they’ll sting you.
  2. Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it.
  3. Remove any sting immediately! It is best to scrape off bee sting with your finger nail or a blunt blade of some sort. The longer bee stings are allowed to remain in the body, the more severe the reaction will be.
  4. If the victim is allergic to bees, check to see if the victim is carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen). If so, help the victim use the EpiPen. If the victim is supposed to carry an EpiPen and does not have it, call 999 immediately and tell the Ambulance service what the problem is! Do not wait for symptoms to appear.
  5. Watch any victim closely for signs of anaphylaxis such as itching, redness, raised welts, shortness of breath.
  6. If there is any concern that the victim may be developing anaphylaxis, call 999 immediately. Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benedryl), can slow an anaphylactic reaction, but will not stop it.
  7. Non-allergic victims will almost always develop local reactions to bee stings. Redness, swelling, and pain are all common at the site of the bee sting. The pain will usually go away pretty quickly, but swelling may last for more than a day. Use an ice pack to reduce swelling at the site. It’s common to develop some itching at the bee sting site. Antihistamines or calamine lotion should help.
  8. Take the victim to the emergency department if the victim was stung more than 10 times, or if there are bee stings inside the nose, mouth, or throat. Swelling from these stings can cause shortness of breath, even in non-allergic victims.
  9. Use ibuprofen or acetaminophen for minor pain relief. For tenderness at the site, try a bee-sting swab (compare prices) to dull the pain.


  • Conventional wisdom says to scrape bee stings away from the skin because pinching the venom sack could push extra venom into the victim. In fact, how fast you get the sting out is much more important than how.
  • Honey bees leave a sting behind when they sting a victim. Wasps and Hornets do not leave the sting behind. Don’t forget that these are relatives of the honey bee and can also cause an anaphylactic reaction.