Bee and Wasp Stings

If you have any questions or concerns about a poisoning, call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Calls to The Poison Control Center at CHOP are always free, confidential, and staffed by pharmacist and nurse experts.

Quick take on bee and wasp stings

Toxicity? Minimal to severe

Most common symptoms if stung? Swelling and redness of the skin along with pain, irritation, and itching at the sting site

When to seek immediate help and call 911? Difficulty breathing, lightheadedness, swelling around the face, lips, tongue or neck.

Has your child been stung by a bee or wasp?

Yellowjacket Bee When a bee or wasp stings someone, it injects a venom into their skin. Some people experience very minor symptoms after being stung, but others can have severe reactions if they have an allergy to bee/wasp stings.

Allergic to bee/wasp venom:

If you or your child is allergic to bee/wasp stings or are having any signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction, immediately call 911 or take them  to the nearest emergency room. The symptoms of an allergic reaction may include difficulty breathing, feeling lightheaded, swelling of the face and/or neck, or a generalized rash.

Anaphylaxis (significant itching, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, dizziness, loss of consciousness) is rare and develops quickly within 30 minutes. It is appropriate to use an epinephrine aut0-injector prescribed to you, as indicated, if you develop symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Not allergic to bee/wasp venom:

If you or your child is not allergic to the venom, then the danger from the sting is minimal. Common symptoms include pain, itching, swelling, and redness at the sting site.  If 911 is not warranted, you can take the following steps to treat your sting:

  1. Examine the area to find the insect stinger. It might be left in your skin.
  2. If the stinger is present, remove it by gently scraping over the area with a straight-edged object, e.g., a credit card, butter knife, etc.
  3. Never attempt to squeeze the stinger out of the skin (this may inject more venom)!
  4. Wash the area with soap and water.
  5. Apply ice (15 minutes on, 15 minutes off) to reduce swelling.
  6. Take over the counter pain medications like acetaminophen as directed by your doctor or pharmacist.

Prevention tips

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Bee nests and hives may be found in trees, under rooves, or on equipment.
  • If severely allergic to bee/wasp venom, talk to your doctor about carrying an epinephrine auto-injector

When to call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)

  • Persistent itching, swelling, pain, or redness at sting site
  • If you develop nausea and vomiting
  • Signs of infection at the sting site (red, painful, warm to the touch and/or pus draining from the sting area, fever)

When to call 911

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Swelling of face and/or neck
  • Tightness in throat or feeling of airway closing
  • Loss of consciousness

Next Steps
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What to Expect When You Call

When you call the Poison Control Center, we will ask you a series of questions. Here's what we'll need to know so we can help.

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Poisoning Resources for Professionals

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