PARENT CARE:  BEE OR YELLOW JACKET STING  

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

WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR BEE OF YELLOW JACKET STING

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

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR BEE STING

  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

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