bee San Diego

What To Do When You Get Stung by a Bee

Though bees can be helpful due to their pollination habits, many people consider them to be a potential health hazard. It’s estimated that 2 million Americans are allergic to bee stings. Even if you’re not allergic to bee stings, the stings are painful and can lead to discomfort – even days later, in some cases. Most people know to give bees a wide berth in order to avoid being stung. Especially if they’re allergic. Do you know what to do if you stumble on a bee or wasp and get stung? Fortunately, that’s exactly what we’re discussing today.

We’ll take a look at what may lead you to be more likely to get stung by bees, the most common areas you may be stung in, and what you can do to treat yourself (or others) in the case of a bee sting (or worse, an allergic reaction)! We’ll even take a look at what you can do to help prevent bee stings as well.

What Are Bees Attracted To?

Bees are pollinators and are thus attracted to flowers and other sweet-smelling plants. The bright colors and sweet scents that flowers give off act as attractants to bees and other pollinators. It’s like a bright neon “welcome” sign to them. But as we all know, sweet smells are also popular with humans – we have designer fragrances made to imitate various floral scents. And these designer scents are very good at imitating natural scents… which means hair spray, scented soaps, lotions, and oils can all attract bees to your location. Avoiding scented products will make bees less apt to explore where you are.

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Another thing to be aware of is your clothing. Flowers are bright and beautiful, and bees are attracted to those bright colors. So if you’re wearing clothing that is brightly-colored, you may end up on a bees radar! Floral patterns are especially attractive, so as great as it may look in summer, you may want to avoid looking like a flower patch during your next summer outing if you want to keep bees away!

Finally, be careful with food. Cans of soda are very tempting to bees, wasps, and other stinging insects! The sugary concoction smells and tastes absolutely delicious to them, so they have no qualms about crawling into an unobserved soda can access the sweet stuff. Then they are frightened into stinging when someone picks up the can.

Even when observing these helpful “rules of thumb,” it’s still possible (though much less likely) to get stung. Most incidental stings are on hands or arms (often because we panic and flail our arms to get away from bees. You’re also at high risk to be stung on the feet if you make it a habit to walk through flower-filled parks or fields barefoot. Bees, of course, will be frightened if you step near (or on) them. Shoes won’t keep bees from being frightened enough to sting, but they will protect feet from stingers!

So what happens if you are unfortunate enough to be stung by a bee? 

Bee venom contains at least nine different components that work together to cause reactions in those stung. When a bee injects its venom under the skin, the victim may have immediate reactions (those symptoms beginning within 4 hours), delayed reactions (symptoms that don’t appear until more than four hours after the sting), or both. Identification of reactions is very important for immediate treatment and knowing what to be prepared for in the future.

Bees also release pheromones that act an attractant which causes other bees to swarm the area (that’s why bees know which threat to target if a hive is in danger). So if you’re stung once, it’s possible you’ll be stung again if other bees from the hive are nearby.

Beware of Multiple Bee Stings

Remember, multiple stings can be extremely dangerous. It’s not so much the sting itself that is dangerous and painful; it’s the small amount of poison that is injected. Multiple stings cause this poison to accumulate and cause more severe reactions in the victim. So while one sting may not trigger a severe reaction, getting stung several times or near the head or throat can be very dangerous and requires an immediate trip to a doctor for safety.

So even though we’ve looked at ways to decrease the likelihood of being stung, we know that it’s nigh impossible to completely eliminate the chance of being stung. So what should you do if you get stung?

One of the main things to do is to stay calm and observe the situation. Proper classification of reactions will lead to the correct treatment of the sting. Treatments will vary according to severity.

Some immediate reactions are classified as local (a two – or three-inch area of swelling, redness and pain that lasts less than 24 hours). Others qualify as large local reactions (those that are larger — often an entire limb — or that last longer, but all symptoms are adjacent to where the stings occurred). “Systemic reactions” are allergic responses distant from the sting and include symptoms such as hives, generalized itching, generalized swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, or anaphylactic shock (a severe reaction involving most or all of these symptoms).

bee sting

For example, a sting on the forehead coupled with swelling of the eyelids would be considered a large local reaction, while a sting on the foot coupled with swelling of the eyelids would be considered a systemic reaction. Large local reactions are rarely serious and rarely indicate a possibility of future severe allergies. Systemic allergic reactions, though also rare, are definite indicators and future warning signs for complications from bee stings down the road.

How Serious Can A Bee Sting Bee?

The fourth type of immediate reaction is the “toxic reaction,” which can follow multiple stings. This is a direct result of bee venom and not an allergic reaction. Symptoms can include fever, weakness, nausea, vomiting, and pain. Toxic reactions are rarely serious, but do sometimes sensitize the victim and herald future allergic reactions to bee stings.

Delayed reactions result when the body’s immune system prepares for future stings, but some of the exuberant defense measures inadvertently turn against the body itself. These symptoms begin more than four hours after the initial sting. Delayed reactions include serum sickness (fever, weakness, rash, swelling, and/or intense itching which begin a week after the sting), nephrotic syndrome (inflammation of the kidney), neuritis (inflammation of the nerves), or inflammation of other parts of the body. These reactions, however, are very rare and most often the result of a severe reaction to a large-scale stinging incident (i.e. being stung/attacked by an entire hive).

So it’s pretty much inevitable that most people will be stung by a bee (or wasp) at some point in their lives. So once you’re stung, what should you do? We’ve compiled a quick list of 10 easy “Do’s and Don’ts”  for you in case you’re ever stung.


DO stay with the person to watch out for any severe reaction that could develop. Most symptoms will occur immediately, but continue to monitor his or her status beyond the initial sting (as we stated before, symptoms and reactions can sometimes be delayed… and DO call for urgent medical help if there is a severe allergic reaction!

DO remove the stinger promptly by wiping over it with a piece of gauze, or scrape a fingernail, or a card over it. This will potentially keep the stinger from injecting more poison into the wound. The less poison injected, the easier it is for the body to fight off symptoms.

DO remain calm

DO wash the site of the sting with plain soap and water

DO apply a cold compress or offer aspirin or acetaminophen (if desired) to reduce swelling, and monitor to make sure the swelling does not increase.

DON’T leave the person alone – they may develop a severe reaction – if this happens, you’ll need to seek professional medical treatment immediately! Any delay in medical assistance to bee sting victim who is allergic can have a severe outcome!

DON’T use tweezers to remove the stinger; that can inject more poison into the wound, which will make symptoms worse.

DON’T squeeze the stinger or scratch the spot that has been stung – this could aggravate the problem and introduce bacteria which could lead to an infection

DON’T  panic!

DON’T Burst any blisters that develop… this can also lead to infection at the site of the sting.

Obviously, no one WANTS to be stung, but now that you know a bit more about bee stings and how to avoid them (as well as these 10 simple “Do’s and don’ts of bee sting treatment), you’re much more prepared to handle the situation!

What’s the worst bee sting you’ve ever had? Have you been swarmed before? Are you allergic or know someone who is? Let us know in the comments!

And of course, if you find a hive, it’s best to have a professional remove it to reduce danger to you and your family. Fortunately, Pro Pacific Pest Control has the experience and expertise to get the hive removed quickly and safely! We even offer live relocation for beehives so that they can continue to safely pollinate… away from your home! To protect your family from dangerous bee stings and call us now!

bee stung-do & don't