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First Aid for Bee Stings: What To Do in Case of Emergency

Medically reviewed by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Updated Dec 07, 2022

    First Aid for Bee Stings: What To Do in Case of Emergency

    Taking care of plants and flowers is an age-old practice and business for gardeners and farmers. Lately, there has been a boom, or rather blossoming, of so-called plantitos and plantitas. The pollen from certain plants attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other animals. While bees are extremely important to the ecosystem, some people mistakenly swat or spray them when they fly by. When an insect stings , it can inject you with a venom that can irritate your skin, or some may cause severe allergic reaction. This reaction may include swelling, pain, and turn the affectted area to red or feel hot.  This can cause them to sting you. Learning first aid for bee stings is important for plant owners and outdoorsy people alike.

    First Aid for Bee Stings

    Get to Safety

    When a bee stings you, try not to panic. If you are stung near a beehive, it would be best to get as far away from it as soon as possible. This is to prevent other bees from attacking you, as they already see you as a danger to their queen and home.

    Interestingly, a bee can only sting once in its life because the stinger does not separate or regrow. Therefore, bees only sting as a last resort when they are threatened. However, insects like wasps can sting multiple times without dying.

    Act Fast

    Before, people were told not to pinch or pluck the stinger out because this would inject more venom into the skin. However, experts now say that speed is more important than the method. The longer you wait to remove the stinger, the deeper it digs into the skin and more venom is released. The best way is to gently scrape the stinger using a fingernail or piece of cloth or thin plastic.

    Keep It Clean

    Because the stinger has created an opening in the skin, it is best to clean the area with water and mild soap. Using cold water can help reduce swelling and pain. Avoid putting rubbing alcohol on the area as this will hurt more. Additionally, do not scratch the area as this can worsen symptoms and introduce bacteria to the wound.

    Chill Out

    Bee stings are mild to moderately painful and the venom causes inflammation and swelling. Using ice or a cold compress will help numb the pain and reduce inflammation. Do not apply ice directly to your skin, as this can cause frostbite. Instead, place ice in a plastic bag and wrap it in a piece of cloth or face towel. This will prevent water leaks and damage to the skin.

    OTC Medications

    Taking over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen can help minimize the pain. Additionally, antihistamines like diphenhydramine, cetirizine, and loratadine can help reduce swelling, redness, and itchiness caused by bee venom. Topical creams and lotions can also be used on the affected area. Try hydrocortisone, calamine lotion, or aloe vera gel.


    Swelling and pain are a given when it comes to bee stings. However, if you notice rapid swelling and pain in areas that were not stung, this may indicate an allergic reaction or  in serious cases, anaphylaxis. If you have a known history of bee venom allergies, you must seek medical attention right away. Epinephrine (adrenaline) shots may be given to patients who have severe reactions to bee stings and other allergens. Some emergency first aid kits may have this.

    Signs of Severe Allergy or Bee Venom Anaphylaxis

    • Extreme redness
    • Tightening of the throat
    • Trouble breathing or swallowing
    • Swelling near the sting site that persists even after 1-2 days
    • Rapid pulse
    • Low blood pressure (shock)
    • Dizziness
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Swelling on the face, eyelids, mouth, hands, and feet
    In summary, bees are not scary but their stings can be. If you see a few bees getting pollen from your flowers, it is best to leave them alone and thank them for their work.
    In case you get stung, first aid for bee stings involves removing the stinger and applying ice to the area. If you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention right away.

    Learn other First Aid tips here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

    General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

    Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Updated Dec 07, 2022

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