Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Allergies Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Understanding Bee Stings -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Is a Bee Sting Allergy Diagnosed?

Your doctor can determine if you are allergic to bee and wasp stings with a simple skin test, using purified, freeze-dried venom. 

However, if you had a severe anaphylactic reaction, a blood test called a RAST -- or radioallergosorbent release test -- may be done instead. This test may be safer in this situation, though it takes more time and is more expensive.

Understanding Bee Sting Allergies

Find out more about bee sting allergies:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

What Are the Treatments for a Bee Sting?

Try to remove the stinger immediately. The stinger contains venom which continues to be released for several seconds after a sting. Scraping a fingernail across the stinger can remove it from the skin. Clean the area with soap and water.  For reactions that just occur at the site of the sting, minimal treatment such as a cold compress or ice pack, is usually sufficient.

If you have multiple stings or a severe allergic reaction, you need emergency medical help at once.

For pain, take aspirin or acetaminophen. Do not give aspirin to a child aged 18 years of age or younger because of the increased risk of Reye’s Syndrome.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or another nonprescription antihistamine may be helpful if the sting is itchy. An over-the-counter steroid cream can also be used.

For anaphylactic shock, call 911. You may give yourself an injection of epinephrine from a bee-sting kit, but after the injection, call 911 promptly for further treatment. 

How Can I Prevent a Sting Reaction?

If you had a serious reaction to a bee or wasp sting, talk to your doctor about allergy skin testing. Also ask about a bee-sting kit (be sure you know how to administer a self-injection). You should also wear a Medic Alert bracelet or necklace describing your allergy.

If you have had a severe reaction to a sting and a positive venom skin test, venom immunotherapy -- a series of weekly shots of purified venom -- may help to prevent a future anaphylactic reaction.

Reduce your chances of being stung by avoiding brightly colored, white, or pastel clothing. Don't use cosmetics or perfume with floral scents. Food odors attract insects, especially yellow jackets, so be alert when you are cooking or eating outdoors.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on May 07, 2013

Today on WebMD

epinephrine at school
Article
Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
Slideshow
 
Woman wth tissue
Slideshow
thumbnail_florist_wearing_surgical_mask
Slideshow
 

woman sneezing
Slideshow
Bottle of allergy capsules and daisies
Article
 
Urban blossoms
Slideshow
Woman blowing nose
Slideshow
 

Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
Yawning Dog
Slideshow
 
Man sneezing into tissue
Tools
woman with duster crinkling nose
Quiz