Bee and Wasp Sting - Treatment

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What is the treatment for a bee or wasp sting?

Treatment for a mild allergic reaction

  • First aid for a bee sting involves cleansing the site, immediate removal of the stinging apparatus (if present), and application of ice or cold packs to the affected area.
  • Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be taken to relieve itching and burning. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) may be taken for pain relief.
  • If the sting site becomes infected, your doctor may prescribe a course of antibiotics.
  • If it has been more than 10 years since your last tetanus booster immunization, get a booster within the next few days.

Treatment for a mild allergic reaction (such as a rash without any breathing difficulty) usually involves the administration of antihistamine medications and sometimes steroid medications to reduce inflammation.

Treatment for anaphylactic reaction

The treatment of choice for life-threatening anaphylactic reactions is epinephrine. Emergency medical treatments may also include steroid and antihistamine medications and insertion of a breathing tube. Intravenous fluids and medications to support cardiovascular function may also be required. Treatment may be begun at the scene by emergency medical personnel and continued in the hospital.

Doctors can prescribe an allergy kit containing self-administered epinephrine (Epi-Pen) for persons at risk for a severe allergic reaction, including those with known allergy to bee or wasp stings. These self-administered injectable epinephrine treatments can be life-saving in many cases. It is important to have kits readily available at home, in the car, at work, etc. and to know how to use them properly.

Immunotherapy is sometimes recommended for those with a history of severe allergic reactions to stings. In this treatment, a series of shots ("allergy shots") are used to provide low-dose exposure to venom. This type of treatment may significantly reduce the chance of future severe allergic reactions.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Sandy, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: June 05

I stepped on a wasp. The area around my little toe swelled, turned red, and hurt like crazy. I began soaking it in Epsom salts. It hurt worse than anything I could remember keeping me up all night. I was stung 4 times last year on my neck and arm but don't remember pain and swelling like this. After 4 days and no sleep due to pain, I went to urgent care where they took out the stinger and gave me antibiotics; it was infected. One week later, I still cannot put a shoe on due to swelling, redness, and pain.

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