Bee and Wasp Sting Allergy: Causes, Risks, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

AS illustration of bee and sting


Sting allergy affects about 2 million Americans, it appears as red patches on the skin and even sometimes swelling accompanied by itchiness. Some stings are classified as mild cases and can be treated in the comfort of your homes but sometimes some cases may require immediate treatment. Bees and Wasps are some of the insects that cause trouble for most people and even in animals.

Wasps are seen during a warm climate especially during summer where people tends to go out and enjoy the summer. Wasps have a stinger that contains a venom, a substance that can harm a human causing reactions in the body and they can sting you multiple times thus adding the level of severity of the injury. Bees, on the other hand, stings you once and it will leave behind its stinger which contains a toxin that can be distributed into the body causing a localized irritation or it can even spread all throughout the body.


Bees and wasps are very territorial. They may attack you in defense for their colony and can attack you. Loud noises in the environment, certain odor, the color of clothing can also be a trigger for an attack.

The bees and wasps have a stinger located behind their bodies that be used as a weapon to attack. When they sting you, the stinger then penetrates the skin and leaves a toxin that can cause a reaction in the body, it may be a simple local irritation and redness on the skin or it may lead to anaphylactic shock if the person is allergic to a sting.

3Risk Factors

Some people are predisposed to being bitten by wasps and having an allergic reaction than others. The risk factors include:

People who are staying outside during hot days

People who like staying outside during summer or hot days are at risk of having a bee or wasp stung them because of the warm climate that the insects like.

Outdoor hobbies

Hobbies like gardening and workers in a greenhouse have a high risk of getting stung by a bee or a wasp. Beekeepers are one example, being exposed to countless colonies of bees every day is an occupational hazard when a bee stung them.

People who are taking certain medicines

Patients who are taking in Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or beta blockers have also a great risk of having a severe reaction to a sting according to studies and also people who have heart disease or cardiovascular diseases of a potentially high risk of having a severe reaction and complications to stings.


In a specific age group, elderly patients may have a difficult time dealing with the reaction and may have a great potential risk of serious complications. As for a child, mild reactions can be seen and can be treated at home, unless the child is known to have a previous allergic reaction to stings and lastly having multiple stings by a bee or wasp can put a person into a shock.


Having stung by a bee or wasps may differ from person to person. Some may have mild and localized discomfort on the skin or generalized pain and irritation throughout the body. When a person who has an allergy to bee and wasp stings have a different reaction, this can even lead to anaphylactic shock.

Mild reaction

Those who do not have an allergy to bee stings can experience localized discomfort on the part of the skin which is involved. Immune response will take place and these signs include:

  • Presence of redness around and on the part where the bee stung.
  • Itchiness on the site
  • Swelling or presence of a rash can be seen

These symptoms may appear only for a short period and can be treated at home. If you have an allergy to bee stings, emergency care should take place and seek a medical practitioner for treatment.

Generalized reaction

People who have experienced being stung by a bee have a greater risk of having a severe reaction when stung again. When a person got stung by a bee, the body will produce an immunoglobulin E that is responsible for fighting the bee toxin in the body as an immune response. The person may feel discomfort throughout the body including:

  • Narrowing of the airway passage due to the inflammation and swelling of the glands in the smooth muscles and mucosa in the throat thus making the person have difficulty in breathing.
  • Flushing found almost in the entire body, which is termed as hives. It is a generalized rash and can last up to 12 hours, itching and swelling of the skin are the common characteristics of hives.

Delayed reactions

Some people may have a different immune response this could lead to a delayed response. Although this is uncommon or unlikely to happen, there are some recorded incidents of these reactions. The condition of the patient can contribute to having a delayed reaction and it can have a detrimental effect on the body. Some of these delayed reactions are:

  • Inflammation of the kidneys or Nephritis: the kidney filters toxins of the body and when the toxin of the bee enters the bloodstream, it may go to the kidneys and it can infect the cells and inflammation can occur.
  • Brain inflammation: the venom can enter the blood-brain barrier and can injure the brain. Increase pressure in the brain may cause serious complications and can even lead to brain death when left untreated.
  • Vascular inflammation or blood vessel inflammation and also blood clot can happen in a delayed reaction

Anaphylactic reaction

People allergic to a bee sting can have anaphylactic shock and this can be a life-threatening event. Immediately seek treatment to address the situation and prevent serious complications. Symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness and sometimes can lead to loss of consciousness and when assessing the patient the vital signs may suddenly drop like the blood pressure and tachycardia may occur.
  • Hives or urticaria which is found in the entire body
  • Nausea and light-headedness accompanied by vomiting
  • Swelling of the site, the face and including the throat which can affect the breathing of the patient. Wheezing is also heard in the person gasping for air.


The doctor may ask you a complete history, whether you had been stung before by a bee or an insect. If a bee stung a person, the stinger is still present at the site and help the doctors find a better treatment for the client.

If the doctor is unsure he will order some diagnostic tests like:

Blood test

 This can determine the level of Immunoglobulin E found in your blood. Immunoglobulin E is the indicator if the person allergic to certain things and in this situation the venom of the bee.

Skin test

A controlled serum of the bee’s venom is injected into the skin or in the upper back. There is an immediate reaction following the introduction of the serum confirming that the patient is allergic to bee stings or wasp stings.


For mild reactions which are not life-threatening or for those who do not have an allergy to bee and wasp sting, you can treat it with some home remedies like:

  • Removing the stinger and wash the wound with water and remove the venom if you can.
  • Apply a cold compress to minimize the swelling of the skin area.
  • Skin care or wound care must be done to prevent infection on the site.
  • Take medications to address the symptoms. For itchiness, take antihistamines like Benadryl to counter the discomfort and lessen the rashes. Analgesics like ibuprofen to reduce the pain from the sting.
  • Use of ingredients found at home like baking soda for itchiness and pain, honey for the wound to help it heal.
  • Use of oils like tea tree oil, lavender and aloe vera which contains anti-inflammatory agents that help reduce the swelling on the skin.

For those who are allergic to the bee and wasps sting, seek immediate treatment. The medical practitioners are trained well for these emergency cases that involve life-threatening events and they may do the following:

  • Administer epinephrine and steroids as an emergency drug
  • Establish an intravenous line for vascular access for hydration and to administer fast-acting medicine.
  • Oxygen administration for better breathing.
  • Cardiovascular resuscitation and Breathing tube just in case the patient may go into shock and stops breathing


The best prevention is to avoid bee hives when you see one. The bees may be perceived you as a threat to their colony and may attack you. Wear protective clothing when going you know you are going outside especially the farmers and workers in a greenhouse that also includes who just loves gardening as a hobby.

If you are allergic to a bee or a wasp sting, you should care an emergency kit contain all the medicines prescribed by the doctor like antihistamines. Allergy shots can be done to desensitize the body to the allergen, there will be a series of shot that will be done to overcome the allergy to bees and wasps and it could take a year to see the results.