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bee sting

Any sting from a bee to a human being.

What are the signs and symptoms of the injury?
Possible symptoms include:
  • redness.
  • swelling.
  • pain.
  • warmth.
  • anaphylaxis, or a total body allergic reaction that can interfere with breathing and cause a feeling that the throat is closing
  • asthma, a condition that causes difficulty breathing, wheezing and coughing

What are the causes and risks of the injury?
Bee stings can occur any time that the temperature is above freezing. These stings are most likely to occur in bushy areas in spring and summer, but can occur anywhere and at any time. Bees and wasps tend to build their nests around trees and other brush, but many nests are also on the eaves of houses. Therefore, contact with nests is fairly frequent.

What can be done to prevent the injury?
If bees, wasps or their nests are known to be in the area, it is best to try to avoid them. Actions that will agitate or irritate a group of bees or wasps in or around their nests should be avoided.

How is the injury recognised?
Usually a person knows if he or she has been stung. People often see the bees or wasps that sting them.

What are the treatments for the injury?
For most people who are stung, the only problems will be swelling and pain. Ice compresses usually help with these symptoms. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol also may be helpful. However, some people have anaphylactic reactions, or severe allergic reactions. For these people, injectable adrenaline may be required.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
adrenaline is a very powerful drug and can cause arrhythmias, or a change in the regular beat of the heart, decreased blood flow and increased blood pressure. If adrenaline is needed for an anaphylactic reaction, the affected person should seek emergency care.

What happens after treatment for the injury?
In most people, the swelling and redness at the injury site will resolve within a week. There may be times that the site becomes itchy, and scratching should be avoided. No unusual side effects should occur after this.

Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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