Treating An Infected Bee Sting, And Signs Of An Infected Bee Sting

For most people a bee sting is nothing more than a sharp painful experience, but for some people it can be a more troublesome after a bee sting becomes infected.

What are the symptoms of bee sting infection?

How would you know if a bee sting had become infected?

  • The main symptom to look out for is swelling and redness at the sting site that is worsening rather than diminishing after the sting

    It is worth noting that it may take a few days for the sting to become infected, but it might take longer than a few days – even a few weeks, so redness and swelling at the sting site a couple of weeks after the sting may indicate infection. 
  • You may also see pus exuding or draining out from the sting area.  

  • Serious infection may lead to fever, malaise, and chills.

What is the best way to treat infected bee stings?  

If you have already taken steps to treat the sting, but infection has occurred, then it would be wise to seek medical advice rather than self-medicating. 

A test could then be carried out to find out exactly which organism is causing the infection, which in turn would enable  your physician or health care professional to select the most appropriate antibiotic.

Should an antibiotic be used to prevent infection after a sting?

There are recommendations to use topical antibiotics after bee stings in order to prevent infection.  Bikowski1 recommends use of a topical antibiotic to provide a high antibiotic concentration at the site of infection. 

In this case, and depending on the country in which you live, it may be that the use of a proprietary ‘over the counter’ topical antibiotic may help reduce the possibility of infection after a bee sting, but it would be a good idea to consult the pharmacist or see a health care professional.

Can a severely infected bee sting be dangerous, and how common are they?  

Severely infected bee stings (life-threatening or fatal infections) seem to be so rare that it is very difficult to find relevant information concerning their prevalence.  It seems that there are only individual case reports of death or serious complications from infected bee stings.  Please note that this is a different type of danger from anaphylactic reaction caused by allergic reaction to the venom.

However, it must be noted, therefore, that there have been fatalities from infected bee stings.  Truskinovsky et al2 in 2001 reported a death from Streptococcus infection from a bee sting, and claimed it was the first such case reported.  

It must be pointed out that the patient was an elderly man with pre-existing serious cardiovascular problems. There have been other reports of infection with a number of different organisms (Staphylococcus; Pseudomonas; and Enterococcus).

See my page about preventing bee stings.


1. Bikowski J. Secondarily infected wounds and dermatoses: a diagnosis and treatment guide. J Emerg Med. 1999 Jan-Feb;17(1):197-206. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(98)00150-4. PMID: 9950410.

2. Alexander M. Truskinovsky, James D. Dick, Grover M. Hutchins, Fatal Infection after a Bee Sting, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 32, Issue 2, 15 January 2001, Pages e36–e38.

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