Bee Sting Reactions

Bee sting reactions: temporary pain, or potentially serious - even dangerous?

Below you will find information about:

  • the differing degree of symptoms and reactions
  • when to take medical advice
  • when to seek emergency assistance.

Unless a person has a sensitivity, most people will experience normal reactions to bee stings. That is, they'll merely find them to be temporary, painful experiences requiring no more than basic first aid which you can easily do at home.

For some people, however, there is real cause for concern, because symptoms can be more severe, and if not a medical emergency, then at requiring at least some assistance from a healthcare professional.

A venom extractor kit may be good to have, and can be used in a range of scenarios.

If you are concerned about wasp or bee sting reactions in future, I recommend you could consider keeping a venom extractor kit at home in your first aid cabinet. 

These work by removing the poison or venom from beneath the skin, and can even be used for mosquito bites, wasp stings and snake bites (be sure to follow the instructions for use).

For future reference, I also recommend you use a deet free repellent, such as Repel - available from Amazon US or Incognito - available from Amazon UK.

Most commonly, a bee sting occurs:

  • on the foot or underfoot, toe or ankle (due to stepping on a bee)
  • on the hand or finger (especially after attempting to handle bees)
  • occasionally on the chest, head or scalp
  • If a sting occurs around the nose, eye, eyelid, ear, mouth, lip or throat, it could be more serious, and medical assistance may be required quickly due to potential problems caused by swelling (such as difficulty swallowing or breathing).  Please see below for further information.

General Bee Sting Reactions:

Symptoms you may encounter following a bee sting could include urticaria (nettle rash), itching, and general flushing (redness) of the skin area immediately around the sting. 

You should try not to scratch the area too much, or it may become infected.  Apply an ice pack to relieve the pain.

If you think your reaction to the sting is normal, and you would like information about how to reduce normal swelling, visit the first aid page, or you may prefer to read this article first.

Large Local Reactions To Bee Stings:

  • Reactions to the sting and the venom can be more painful and visible.  Extensive swelling, could develop, with a white weal around the entry of the sting. In such reactions, the swelling process will begin immediately after the sting.
  • After about 3 -4 hours, swelling may increase further, and become itchy and tender. 

How long will the swelling last?

  • Swelling may continue for about 12 hours, and it's possible the swelling may not subside for another two or three days!
  • Thus, in such cases, a single sting to the lower leg, for example, could cause the whole leg to swell considerably.
  • If the symptoms show no sign of improvement after a few days, medical assistance may be sought in order to gain effective treatments to deal.
  • You may consider having tests to confirm allergy.

What about when a bee sting is infected?

  • In the case of signs of infections (such as swelling and pus), flu-like symptoms and fever, the infection may need to be cleared up with anti-biotics, and you may require the advice/assistance of an appropriately qualified health care professional. 

When Is A Bee Sting Dangerous?

Bee stings can be dangerous!  Seek medical assistance for more serious reactions to
bee stings.

Here is when you need to worry:

  • More serious reactions could include nausea, vomiting, palpitations, faintness, and abdominal pains, feeling dizzy, rapid heart rate, difficulty swallowing, swollen face, mouth or throat. 
  • In such cases, medical attention should definitely be sought.
  • It is believed that if these severe reactions are immediate, they are a greater cause for concern.  The sooner these reactions appear after the stinging incident, the more serious the case is likely to be. Seek medical assistance.
  • When a bee sting causes swelling in the nose or throat, then it could obstruct breathing. Again, if this occurs, seek medical assistance immediately.
  • Likewise, seek medical treatment if the sting occurs in the ear, or close to the eye, or in the mouth.

Extreme reaction to bee stings:  ANAPHYLAXIS - Seek Emergency Medical Assistance

I do not wish to be alarmist, and it is important to get things into perspective.  Every year, lightning and flu kill more people in the US than bee stings do.  Even humans are more dangerous to fellow humans than bees are!  See Bee Sting Facts.

However, it's nevertheless a good idea to be aware of severe symptoms in the case of a dangerous reaction.

What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis, is a state of shock (anaphylactic shock) or collapse that occurs when a person who is sensitive to a substance that causes allergic reaction, is then exposed to it.

Medical attention must be sought immediately, as it can be fatal.

Common initial symptoms of anaphylaxis include nausea, vomiting, chest wheeze, confusion, falling blood pressure, feeling dizzy, rapid heart rate, and unconsciousness.

Treatment of Anaphylaxis
For those who are very sensitive to stings, anaphylaxis can occur within seconds or minutes, is very serious, and is a medical emergency.

Whilst awaiting medical treatment, a collapsed victim should be placed in the recovery position, with airways cleared and dentures removed. The person should have their clothing loosened, and must be kept warm.

If you are aware that you or a loved one has a severe allergy to bee stings such as this, you should carry an Epi-pen.

In addition, it is a good idea whilst out and about to wear or carry something that would alert other people to your allergy in the event of a stinging incident, such as a charm or keyring.

Bee sting on a baby, child or toddler

Be especially vigilant if your baby, child or toddler is stung, see the first aid information on this site, monitor the symptoms, and do not hesitate to seek medical assistance if necessary.

When and why do bees sting, and which bee sting hurts the most?

Stings usually occur as a defensive reaction when a bee feels threatened, but note that the sting from some species is thought to be more painful than others, and not all bees are able to sting (males cannot, and some species do not sting at all).

For example, a honey bee sting is barbed, and could hurt quite a bit, whereas a sting from a solitary bee (already a rare occurence for most species in the first place) is generally thought to be far less painful.  A wasp sting is thought to be more painful than either. 

It is also possible to be bitten by another insect species, such as a horsefly, and experience some similar or more severe symptoms, and mistakenly blame the bee, when it is not the case.

However, in any event, it is a good idea to be aware of the levels of different symptoms, in order to know what action to take.

Stings from Africanized Honey Bees
If you’re in the USA, you may have heard of africanized honey bees, sometimes referred to as killer bees. However, their stings are not more venomous than other honey bees, but they may attack in swarms, causing severe reactions and requiring the need for medical treatment.

Preventing stings in the future

I have comprehensive pages with information about prenting wasp stings and bee stings - after all, prevention is better than cure:

However, briefly:


Apiphobia is fear of bees and bee stings.  For assistance and help, please see this dedicated page.

Treating bee stings
Find out more about treating bee stings here.

Home and natural bee sting remedies
Is the pharmacy closed? Or do you prefer to use natural products or whatever is available in the kitchen cupboard? If so, click here.

Bee sting facts
What is the real risk of a serious sting from a bee? Some quick and interesting facts here.

Prevention is better than cure!
How to avoid being stung in the first place!

Bee stings introduction
Go back to the introductory page about bee stings.

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