Bee Sting Reactions

Updated: 29th April 2021

Bee sting reactions may result in temporary pain, or more severe symptoms.  Rarely, but in extreme cases, a reaction can even pose dangerous threat to health.

Below you will find information about:

  • the differing degree of symptoms and reactions
  • when to take medical advice
  • how to identify, and when to seek emergency assistance for severe bee sting reactions
  • preventing bee stings.

When should I be concerned about bee sting reactions?

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, with some swelling, but 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. 

Seek Medical Help Quickly If Stung In A Sensitive Area don't wait for the swelling to get worse!

Bee stings which occur in particular places (and especially on children) should be seen by a health care professional sooner rather than later.

Sensitive areas include:

  • around or inside the nostril or nose
  • close to the eye or eyelid
  • in the ear
  • in the mouth, lip or throat
  • around the genitals
  • any other sensitive areas, such as areas already wounded and under medical supervision.

    A sting in a sensitive area could become more serious, and medical assistance may be required quickly.  For example, a bee sting in the mouth could cause swelling and result in difficulty swallowing or breathing. Children are especially vulnerable.  Seek help from a suitably qualified health care professional.

Where are we most likely to be stung?

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 you are concerned about wasp or bee sting reactions in future, 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).

You could also try a repellent to avoid being stung in the first place. 

Please note: as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases for links to Amazon products at no extra cost to you (this helps me fund my site).  Both of these repellents are DEET free:

Repel - is available from Amazon US or

Incognito - is available from Amazon UK.

General Bee Sting Reactions:

  • Symptoms you may encounter following a bee sting could include urticaria (nettle rash), some swelling, 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.

Symptoms Of 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.   See Why do bee stings hurt.

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 with the swelling.
  • 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 the advice/assistance of an appropriately qualified health care professional should be sought. 

When Is A Bee Sting Reaction Dangerous?  - Serious Reactions To Bee Stings

In the vent of a serious reaction, bee stings can be dangerous!  Seek medical assistance for more serious reactions to bee stings which could include the following:

  • Nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate or palpitations (heart beat feeling more rapid, fluttering or pounding), faintness, and abdominal pains, feeling dizzy, 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 as stated above.   Children may be especially vulnerable, so seek help.

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 USA 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 person 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, if you have an allergy, 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 key ring.

Bee sting on a baby, child or toddler

Be especially vigilant if your baby, child or toddler is stung and in particular areas around the nose, eye, ear or other sensitive places. Monitor for allergic reactions.  See the first aid information on this site, monitor the symptoms, and do not hesitate to seek medical assistance if necessary.

Bee stings and dogs

Please see my page: bee stings and dogs.

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 occurrence 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.


Apiphobia is fear of bees and bee stings.  It can sometimes be overcome with effort from the individual and sometimes with external support.

Did You Know?

More people are killed by lightning than bee stings!  Read:

Bee Sting Facts

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