Bee poison

This poisoning is caused by a sting from a bee, wasp, or yellow jacket.

Where Found

  • Bees  
  • Wasps  
  • Yellow jackets



  • Body as a whole       o Pain at site of sting       o Collapse (a)       o Swelling of the face and lips (a)  
  • Respiratory       o Difficulty breathing (a)  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Swelling of throat (a)  
  • Skin       o Swelling at site of sting       o Itching       o Hives (a)  
  • Heart and blood vessels       o Severe decrease in blood pressure (a)  
  • Gastrointestinal       o Nausea       o Vomiting       o Abdominal cramping       o Diarrhea

Note: (a) means due to an allergic reaction, if one occurs, and not from the venom itself.

Home Treatment

For those who have an allergy to bee, wasp, or yellow jacket stings, it is important to always carry a bee sting kit (which requires a prescription) and become familiar with its use. After a sting, immediately use the kit to administer an injection of medication (epinephrine).

Call Poison Control or a hospital emergency room for guidance if the person has an allergy to the insect or was stung inside the mouth or throat. It may be necessary to go to the hospital if the reaction is severe.

Remove the stinger from the skin (if it is still present). Carefully scrape the back of a knife or other thin straight-edged object across the stinger if the victim is able to remain still, and it is safe to do so. Otherwise, you can pull out the stinger with tweezers or your fingers, but avoid pinching the venom sac at the end of the stinger which will cause more venom to be released

Clean the area thoroughly with soap and water.

Place ice (wrapped in a washcloth or other suitable covering) on the site of the sting for 10 minutes and then off for 10 minutes. Repeat this process. If patient has circulatory problems, decrease the time that the ice is on the area, to prevent possible damage to the skin.

Use diphenhydramine (Benadryl) by mouth. This antihistamine drug may be used alone for a mild symptoms.

Before Calling Emergency

Determine the following information:

  • Patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • Type of insect, if possible  
  • Time stung

Poison Control, or a local emergency number

They will instruct you if the patient needs to go to the hospital. See Poison Control Centers for telephone numbers and addresses.

If safely possible, bring the insect to the emergency room for identification.

What to expect at the emergency room

Some or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • They will treat the symptoms.  
  • They may give one or several medications (orally or by injection).  
  • They will establish and maintain the airway, if needed.

Expectations (prognosis)

If a severe allergic reaction occurs, death may occur rapidly. The sooner the appropriate treatment is implemented, the more likely that there will be a positive outcome. In non-allergic patients, symptoms are likely to resolve completely within one week.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 5, 2012
by David A. Scott, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.