Symptom Definition

  • The child was stung by a honeybee, bumblebee, hornet, paper wasp. or yellow jacket. Over 95 percent of stings are from honey bees or yellow jackets. 
  • The sting involves injecting venom into the human from the bee's stinger
  • The main symptoms are pain, swelling and redness at the sting site
  • A severe allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis

See More Appropriate Topic(instead of this one) If

  •  Not a bee, wasp or yellow jacket sting, see INSECT BITE


Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) (for symptom of anaphalxis) If

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Hoarseness, cough or tightness in the throat or chest
  • Difficulty swallowing or slurred speech
  • Thinking or speech is confused
  • Passed out or very weak
  • Previous severe allergic reaction to bees, yellow jackets, etc. (not just hives or swelling)
  • (Note:  anaphylaxis usually starts within 20 minutes, and always by 2 hours following a sting.)

First Aid Advice for Anaphylaxis

  • Give epinephrine injection if you have an anaphylactic kit
  • Inject it into the muscle of the upper outer thigh

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:

  • Your child looks or acts very sick.

  • Hives or swelling occur elsewhere on the body
  • More than 10 stings
  • Any contact with an animal at risk for RABIES.
  • Sting inside the mouth  

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9am and 4pm) If:

  • You think your child needs to be seen.
  • Sting looks infected (red streaking from the sting area, yellow drainage)
    (Note: infection and cellulitis don't start until at least 24-48 hours after the sting.  Any redness in the first 24 hours is due to venom)
  • Swelling is huge (e.g., spreads beyond wrist or ankle)

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If:

  • Normal bee sting and you don't think your child needs to be seen


  1. Try to Remove the Stinger (if present): Use a fingernail, credit card edge or knife edge to scrape it off. Don't pull it off. (Reason: squeezes out more venom). If the stinger is below the skin surface, leave it alone.  It will be shed with normal skin healing.
  2.  Meat Tenderizer: Apply a meat tenderizer-water solution on a cotton ball for 20 minutes (EXCEPTION:  near the eye).  This neutralizes the venom and decreases pain and swelling.  If not available, apply aluminum-based deodorant or a baking soda solution for 20 minutes.  For persistent pain, massage with an ice cube for 10 minutes.
  3. Pain Medicine: Give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen immediately for relief of pain and burning.
  4. Antihistamine: If the sting becomes itchy, give a dose of Benadryl.  
  5. Expected Course: Severe pain or burning at the site lasts 1 to 2 hours. Normal swelling from venom can increase for 24 hours following the sting. The swelling disappears after 3 to 5 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Develops difficulty breathing or swallowing (mainly during the 2 hours after the sting) (call 911)
    • Swelling becomes huge or spreads beyond the wrist or ankle
    • Sting begins to look infected
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Pediatric HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004 Barton Schmitt, M.D. FAAP

Reviewed 8/2004

Revised 7/2002

See Other Topics:

Insect Bite

View Anatomic Index of Topics