Bee or Yellow Jacket Sting  
Back to Index

This Care Guide Covers:

  • Stung by a honeybee, bumblebee, hornet, wasp, or yellow jacket
  • Over 95 percent of stings are from honey bees or yellow jackets
  • The main symptoms are pain and redness

If not, see these topics
  •  Not a bee, wasp or yellow jacket sting. See INSECT BITE.
View First Aid Advice
  • First Aid for Anaphylaxis - Epinephrine

View images
Bee Sting of Upper Arm
Bee Sting of Upper Arm

Bee Sting of Left Hand
Bee Sting of Left Hand

First Aid - Removing a Stinger
First Aid - Removing a Stinger

First Aid - Shock - Child
First Aid - Shock - Child

Honeybee Collecting Pollen
Honeybee Collecting Pollen


Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp


When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • For any of the following symptoms of anaphylaxis, see FIRST AID. Anaphylaxis most often starts within 20 minutes. It always starts by 2 hours after a sting.
  • Past severe allergic reaction to stings (not just hives)
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness, cough or tightness in the throat or chest
  • Trouble swallowing or drooling
  • Speech is slurred
  • Acts or talks confused
  • Passed out or too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Hives or swelling all over the body
  • Sting inside the mouth
  • Sting on the eye
  • Stomach pain or vomiting
  • More than 5 stings for 10 pounds (5 kg) of weight. (In teens, more than 50 stings.)
  • Fever and sting looks infected (spreading redness)
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
  • More than 48 hours since the sting and redness getting larger. (Note: Infection is not common. It does not start until at least 24-48 hours after the sting. Redness that starts in the first 24 hours is due to venom.)
  • Swelling is huge (4 inches or 10 cm). It spreads across a joint such as the wrist.
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Normal reaction to bee or yellow jacket
Causes & Health Information

Skin Reactions to the Sting

Anaphylactic Reaction


  1. What You Should Know:
    • Bee stings are common.
    • The main symptoms are pain and redness.
    • The swelling can be large. This does not mean it's an allergy.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Try to Remove the Stinger (if present):
    • Only honey bees leave a stinger.
    • The stinger looks like a tiny black dot in the sting.
    • Use a fingernail or credit card edge to scrape it off.
    • If the stinger is below the skin surface, leave it alone.  It will come out with normal skin shedding.
  3. Meat Tenderizer:
    • Make a meat tenderizer paste with a little water. Use a cotton ball to rub it on the sting. Do this once for 20 minutes. Reason: This may neutralize the venom and reduce the pain and swelling. Caution: Do not use near the eye.
    • If you don't have any, use an aluminum-based deodorant. You can also put a baking soda paste on the sting. Do this for 20 minutes.
  4. Cold Pack:
    • If pain does not improve after using the meat tenderizer paste, rub with an ice cube.
    • Do this for 20 minutes.
  5. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Use as needed. See Dose Table.
  6. Steroid Cream:
    • For itching or swelling, put 1% hydrocortisone cream on the sting. No prescription is needed.
    • Use 3 times per day.  
  7. Allergy Medicine:
    • For hives or severe itching, give a dose of Benadryl. See Dose Table.
  8. What to Expect:
    • Severe pain or burning at the site lasts 1 to 2 hours.
    • Normal swelling from venom can increase for 48 hours after the sting.
    • The redness can last 3 days.
    • The swelling can last 7 days.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Trouble breathing or swallowing occurs (mainly during the 2 hours after the sting.) Call 911.
    • Redness gets larger after 2 days
    • Swelling becomes huge
    • Sting starts to look infected
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child 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.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 2/7/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.