Summer Bee Stings 101

How to treat your child for a bee or wasp sting

A mother bends over her child in a stroller to examine a bee sting in an outdoor environment.

Playing pirates outdoors or digging in the sand at the beach may lead to a close encounter with a buzzing bee or whining wasp. If your child likes to run around and play outside in the park, on the beach or near the flower garden, bees, wasps, yellow jackets or hornets will likely fly into his or her future.

Symptoms for bee and wasp stings

Pain, itching, swelling and redness are to be expected. The pain usually lasts for one or two hours. Swelling can increase during the 24 hours after the sting and may extend beyond the sting site. The redness can last up to three days and swelling can last up to 7 days.

Should I worry about an allergic reaction?

If your child has had a history in the past of a severe anaphylactic reaction, including trouble breathing or swallowing, or widespread hives or facial swelling, you should talk to your pediatrician and make sure you have a current epinephrine pen (EpiPen, Twinject) and that you understand how to use it.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Only honey bees leave a stinger. Remove the stinger as soon as possible, as it takes only seconds for all of the venom to enter the body. Use a finger nail or credit card edge to scrape it off.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply a meat tenderizer-water solution on a cotton ball for 20 minutes. Exception: near the eye. The papain enzyme in the meat tenderizer may neutralize the venom by breaking down the toxin from the bite and decrease pain and swelling.
  • If not available, apply aluminum-based deodorant or a baking soda solution for 20 minutes.
  • You may massage with ice and use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for the pain.
  • For itching, give a dose of an oral antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or use a 1 percent over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
  • Keep your child from scratching the sting area.

Bee stings do get red, but it does not indicate infection in most cases. Infections rarely occur in stings.