Bee Stings


Strictly means a sting from a bee (honey bee, bumblebee, sweat bee, etc). The stings of most of these species can be quite painful. In people who are allergic to bee stings, a sting may trigger a dangerous anaphylactic reaction that is potentially deadly.


It is important to differentiate a bee sting from an insect bite. It is also important to recognize that the venom or toxin of stinging insects is quite different. Therefore, the body’s reaction to a bee sting may differ significantly from one species to another.

Simple bee sting usually causes local reactions which can be characterized by:

  • Redness, swelling, pain and itching at the site of the bee sting.
  • The pain will usually go away quickly, but swelling may last for more than a day.

Unfortunately, someone may develop systemic or allergic reactions following bee stings, in which he may suffer from:

  • Hives (raised itchy bumps on the skin) and itching all over the body
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat or both
  • Wheezing (Noisy breathing)
  • Shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain

In severe cases, marked difficulty in breathing, unconsciousness, and even death may occur.


Multiple stings may cause serious complications (such as muscle breakdown or kidney failure) and, rarely, even death.

Nevertheless, single sting in the mouth or throat can cause swelling and airway obstruction in children. These serious problems may occur within the first few hours of being stung or may be delayed for days after being stung.

It is important to be aware that small children and elderly are at higher risk to develop serious reactions to bee sting.


First aid:

  • The first step in treatment following a bee sting is removal of the stinger itself. The stinger should be removed as fast as possible without regard to method.
  • (Studies have shown the amount of venom delivered does not differ if the sting is pinched or scraped off and even a delay of a few seconds leads to more venom being injected.[1] )
  • Apply ice to the sting site to reduce swelling
  • (Once the stinger is removed, pain and swelling should be reduced with a cold compress.)
  • Rest and elevate the limb that has been stung
    Seek Medical Advice as soon as possible (2 percent of people develop anaphylactic shock from certain proteins in the venom and it can be life-threatening and requires emergency treatment)
  • An injection of adrenaline will be needed if the person develops shock
  • A tetanus immunization often recommended.
    The sting may be painful for a few hours. Swelling and itching may persist for a week. The area should not be scratched as it will only increase the itching and swelling.
    It is important to remember that if the victim was stung more than 10 times, or if there are bee stings inside the nose, mouth, or throat, the possibility of the victim getting shortness of breath are greater due to anaphylactic reactions or swelling of the sting site


  • Avoid bees and wasps.

It is important to remember that honey Bee Stings release pheromomes that prompt other bees to attack


  • Visscher P, Vetter R, Camazine S (1996). “Removing bee stings.”. Lancet 348 (9023): 301–2.
  • Balit C, Isbister G, Buckley N (2003). “Randomized controlled trial of topical aspirin in the treatment of bee and wasp stings”. J. Toxicol. Clin. Toxicol. 41 (6): 801–8.
  • Glaser, David. “Are wasp and bee stings alkali or acid and does neutralising their pH them give sting relief?”. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
  • John Murtagh’s Patient Education, Fifth edition, page 213.
  • John Murtagh, General Practice, Third Edition, page 1323.
Last Reviewed : 23 August 2019
Writer : Dr. Norizzati Bukhary bt. Ismail Bukhary
Accreditor : Dr. Rosnah bte. Ramly
Reviewer : Dr. Mohamad Hamim b. Mohamad Hanifah