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Bee stings

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Bee Stings

Bees are one of the most common insects in the UK to trigger an allergic reaction. The two most common species of bee in the UK are honey bees and bumble bees. A honey bee has a barbed stinger which gets left inside you when it stings. It cannot sting more than once and dies once it has stung you. It is important to remove the barb/stinger to prevent infection. Bumble bees do not have barbed stingers and can sting repeatedly. However, bumblebees are not aggressive and are unlikely to sting you unless provoked. Reaction to the venom in bee stings can be accumulative (the more stings you receive, the worse you could react). Bees can be found feeding in flowers and vegetation and are common insects to see in your garden.


A bee sting causes a sudden, sharp pain at first. This pain can occasionally feel like a burning sensation. A typical, non-allergic reaction to a bee sting will usually only last for a few hours and not require medical treatmen

 Mild Reaction

  • Pain, swelling and redness around the sting site
  • Itchiness
  • Barbed sting still attached to the sting site
  • A white spot commonly appears where the stinger punctured the skin


Moderate allergic reaction

The symptoms below indicate a non-severe allergy to a bee sting:

  • Larger area of redness, swelling and pain around the sting site
  • Skin remaining swollen and painful for up to a week


Allergic reaction symptoms

Rapid onset of any of the following symptoms following a bee sting could indicate a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Anaphylaxis is potentially life-threatening and requires emergency treatment. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include:

  • Swelling of the throat and tongue
  • Facial swelling
  • Additional skin reactions, including itching, hives and pale or flushed skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A weak, rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Additional possible symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain


As your body’s reaction to bee stings can be accumulative, be mindful of whether you have been stung multiple times in the past, as this could cause a more severe reaction. In the unusual event that a sting causes symptoms of a severe reaction, you will need immediate emergency care. If your sting site is showing signs of being infected (swelling and redness persisting beyond a week, pus draining from the sting site and or fever and flu-like symptoms), we recommend that you contact Ahmey’s and make an appointment to see a doctor. If the sting site is incredibly swollen, the doctor might prescribe a topical cream or oral medication to reduce swelling. If the sting site is infected, the doctor may also potentially prescribe antibiotics.


  • Bees will only sting you if they feel threatened. Avoid swatting or waving your arms around and try to remain calm and still
  • Bees are attracted to strong perfumes and bright colours. Wearing white and neutral colours and avoiding strong perfumes, soaps and detergents when outdoors is a good way to reduce the likelihood of being stung
  • Be aware of or feeding areas, such as flowering plants, rubbish and outdoor areas where food is served
  • Wear shoes when outdoors


Bee stings are painful, but do not usually require medical treatment. If you experience any symptoms of an infection, or experience moderate symptoms that persist beyond a week, contact Ahmey’s to make an appointment. If you experience any symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, you will need immediate emergency treatment. Any mild discomfort can be treated by the patient themselves in the ways shown below.

First aid for bee stings:

  • If the stinger remains in the sting site, try to remove it as quickly as possible to avoid receiving more venom
  • Gently scrape the stinger out with a stiff-edged object such as a credit card or fingernail
  • Wash the affected area gently with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to clean the wound and reduce the chance of a bacterial infection
  • Place an ice pack or a cold compress (cloth or flannel cooled with cold water) to reduce any swelling
  • If possible, elevate or raise the affected area to reduce swelling
  • Avoid scratching the area to reduce the risk of introducing infection
  • You can purchase anti-inflammatory and anti-itching creams, such as Hydrocortisone, over the counter to relieve itching and reduce inflammation caused by insect bites and stings
Faheem Ahmed

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