Wasp and Bee Sting Allergy

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

Wasp, bees and hornets 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 are accumulative, i.e. the more stings you receive the worse you could react, hence the risk to beekeepers. A severe reaction to bee venom is a well-document risk for beekeepers.

Symptoms of Bee and 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 the 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 antihistamines to reduce itching and swelling
  • To relieve pain, take Paracetamol

A serious reaction is called an anaphylactic 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 and 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 steroids can be used while the person can be kept under observation.

Long-Term Treatment - The most effective form of prevention of anaphylaxis from a 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.

Contact us if you have further questions or to make an appointment for a consultation.