Wasp & Bee Sting Allergy

From localised swelling and redness to life-threatening symptoms, advice and treatment

Bee or Wasp sting

Wasp, bee and hornet are the most common insects to trigger an allergic reaction.  Their stings can be extremely painful and unpleasant.  The severity of the reaction to their venom varies from person to person.  Bee and wasp stings have increased in recent years due to the extensive use of perfumes and perfumed toiletries that attract all types of insects as well as the increased popularity of bee-keeping.  Reactions to bee and wasp venom is accumulative, i.e the more stings you receive the worse you could react, hence the risk to bee-keepers.  A severe reaction to bee venom is a well-document risk for bee-keepers.

Symptoms of Bee & Wasp Sting

The usual reaction to a bee or wasp sting is pain, swelling and redness around the sting site.

A large local reaction will result in swelling that spreads beyond the site, for instance, if you were stung on the hand the swelling may spread up your arm.

In these cases:

  • To avoid receiving more venom, remove the stinger as quickly as possible, using a credit card or back of a blunt knife to do so.
  • Wash the area with soap and water, then apply an antiseptic cream
  • If the swelling is a problem, apply an ice pack
  • Take oral anti-histamines to reduce itching and swelling
  • To relieve pain, take Paracetamol

A serious reaction is called an anaphylatic reaction and may present serious, life-threatening symptoms such as :

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, throat, hands or feet
  • Wheezing or difficulty swallowing
  • Red itchy skin rash (urticaria/hives)
  • Vomiting and collapse

For this you need to seek immediate medical attention.

    Treatment of Wasp & Bee Sting Allergy

    Immediate Treatment - For a severe reaction with generalised symptoms, we recommend the immediate use of an adrenaline injection (Epipen), attendance at an Accident & Emergency hospital department, where injectable antihistamines and steriods can be used while the person can be kept under observation.

    Long Term Treatment - The most effective form of prevention of anaphylaxis from bee, wasp or hornet venom is desensitisation (immunotherapy), which is very safe and aims to establish a long term immunity to bee or wasp venom, following a 3-4 year course of treatment.

How can we help you?


  • Take IgE blood test to bee/wasp venom.
  • Offer desensitisation treatment for 3 - 4 years.



Specialist tips and notes

Avoid wearing perfumes, or perfumed toiletries when outside in the summer. 

There are some sprays and creams available to ease the effects of a wasp or bee sting.  It is wise to keep one or two of these treatments in your first aid kit as a precaution.

If stung by a bee or wasp, remove the sting within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom.

Genty scrape the sac and stinger out with fingernail or stiff-edged object such as credit card.

Wash the stung area with soap and water and apply antiseptic cream.

Place an ice pack over the sting area.

Take anti-histamine to reduce itching, swelling and hives.

If you have a reaction to a sting it is worth checking IgE in case it indicates newly emerging allergy.


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