someone holding a bee in their hand

Bee Sting First Aid

Getting stung by a bee is no fun so I’ve put together this extensive guide to bee sting first aid. Chances are you’ve been stung by a bee once in your life but whether you have or not this guide will take you through all the steps of proper sting care.


The 8 steps of bee sting first aid

  1. When required remove the sting from the skin
  2. If possible remove the bee to safety
  3. Wash the site of the sting with soapy water
  4. Place a cold compress on the affected area
  5. Raise the affected limb to reduce swelling 
  6. Do not scratch or touch the sting site as this can lead to infection
  7. Despite what you may be told it is best to avoid natural remedies
  8. To reduce pain and swelling ibuprofen can be used sparingly

I’ve taken this advice directly from the NHS website and you can get further information here.

What does getting stung by a bee feel like?

A bee sting can vary in perceived severity from person to person. This can be due to pain threshold or a tendency to react to stings in general. Initially, the affected person will feel a sharp pain at the site of the sting. This will be followed by a dull ache, redness and swelling at the affected area. In most cases, this will last 1 to 2 hours with the pain gradually subsiding. These effects are minor in severity and this is the experience of most people after being stung by a bee.

What happens when you are stung by multiple bees?

There are some cases where humans are stung repeatedly after upsetting a hive or a migrating swarm. This can have a much more serious effect and can in some cases be fatal. When an average-sized adult is stung more than 12 times it can lead to a toxic reaction which can vary in severity.

The symptoms of a toxic reaction from multiple bee stings are as follows:

  • Vomiting, Nausea or Diarrhoea
  • Severe Headache
  • A Fever
  • Fainting or general dizziness
  • Convulsions
  • Vertigo (A Feeling of continuous spinning)

The 3 types of reaction to bee stings

Mild reaction

When a person has a mild reaction to a bee ting they will experience minimal discomfort. The main symptoms of a mild reaction are as follows:

  • The small red area surrounding the site of the sting
  • A small sharp pain initially replaced with a dull ache for 1 to 2 hours
  • Some slight swelling around the affected area

Moderate reaction

Some people seem to have an adverse effect to sting of most kind. While this is not a severe allergic reaction the body overreacts to the perceived threat. In this case the beesting. Some people report an increase in the severity of each subsequent sting. If this happens to you it is recommended for you to see your doctor and plan some preventative steps.

The main difference in symptoms is purely the recovery time and seriousness of the symptoms:

  • Pronounced redness that can spread way beyond the sting site
  • Swelling that may affect an entire limb or large area
  • Effects can last 5 to 10 days for moderate reactions

Severe reaction

In a small number of cases, people will have a severe allergic reaction. The proper term for a severe allergic reaction is ‘anaphylaxis’. In all cases of severe reaction the affected individual should seek emergency help, allergic reactions can be fatal if not treated with speed. If you see any of the following symptoms after a bee sting you need to dial 999 immediately:

  • Any difficulty breathing
  • A particularly weak or rapid pulse
  • Hives, flushed or pale skin
  • Vomiting, diarrhoea or nausea
  • Severe dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Any swelling in the airway

For more information on a bee sting and there treatment and prevention check out this article from the Mayo ClinicOr you can check out our article on ‘Everything You Need To Know About Our Friend The Honeybee?’.

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