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First Aid & Emergencies

Treatment of Bee and Wasp Stings

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Treating bee and wasp stings depends on their severity. The majority of problems that require medical attention come from an allergic reaction to the sting. In most cases, complications from that reaction respond well to medications -- when given in time.

Home Treatment for Bee and Wasp Stings

Most insect stings for someone who is not allergic need no more than first aid given at home. Then you can avoid further stings by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, and staying out of infested areas.

Here are the steps you need to take after someone who is allergic has been stung:

  • Remove any stingers immediately. Some experts recommend scraping out the stinger with a credit card.
  • Applying ice to the site may provide some mild relief. Apply ice for 20 minutes once every hour as needed. Wrap the ice in a towel or keep a cloth between the ice and skin to keep from freezing the skin.
  • Taking an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or a nonsedating one such as loratadine (Claritin) will help with itching.
  • Take ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain relief as needed.
  • Wash the sting site with soap and water and place an antibiotic ointment on the site.
  • If it's been more than 10 years since your last tetanus booster, get a booster within the next few days.
  • Most insect stings require no additional medical care.

If you know you may be allergic, especially if you've had a severe reaction in the past when stung by a bee or wasp, seek immediate medical help. Take an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or a nonsedating one such as loratadine (Claritin) as soon as possible. If you have been prescribed epinephrine (EpiPen) for an allergic reaction, always carry two with you and use it as directed.

Medical Treatment for Bee and Wasp Stings

If you have a single sting with no allergic symptoms, you may require only local wound care such as cleaning and applying antibiotic ointment. Any stingers that remain will be removed. And you may be given an oral antihistamine to treat itching. The doctor may also tell you to use ibuprofen (Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. If your tetanus immunization is not current, you'll receive a booster shot.

With mild allergic symptoms such as a rash and itching over your body but no problems with breathing or other vital signs, you may be treated with an antihistamine. You may also be given steroids. In some cases, the doctor will give you an epinephrine (adrenaline) injection. Treatment may be started at the scene or in the ambulance by the emergency medics. If you are doing well, you may be sent home after observation in the emergency department.

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