For ordinary bee stings that do not cause an allergic reaction, home treatment is enough. Multiple stings or an allergic reaction, on the other hand, can be a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
Emergency treatment for allergic reactions
During an anaphylactic attack, an emergency medical team may perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. You may be given medications including:
- Epinephrine (adrenaline) to reduce your body's allergic response
- Oxygen, to help you breathe
- Intravenous (IV) antihistamines and cortisone to reduce inflammation of your air passages and improve breathing
- A beta agonist (such as albuterol) to relieve breathing symptoms
If you're allergic to bee stings, your doctor is likely to prescribe an emergency epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others). You'll need to have it with you at all times. An autoinjector is a combined syringe and concealed needle that injects a single dose of medication when pressed against your thigh. Always be sure to replace epinephrine by its expiration date.
Be sure you know how to use the autoinjector. Also, make sure the people closest to you know how to administer the drug — if they're with you in an anaphylactic emergency, they could save your life. Medical personnel called in to respond to a severe anaphylactic reaction also may give you an epinephrine injection or another medication.
Consider wearing an alert bracelet that identifies your allergy to bee or other insect stings.
Bee and other insect stings are a common cause of anaphylaxis. If you've had a serious reaction to a bee sting or multiple stings, your doctor likely will refer you to an allergist for allergy testing and consideration of allergy shots (immunotherapy). These shots, generally given regularly for a few years, can reduce or eliminate your allergic response to bee venom.
Aug. 10, 2017
- Freeman T. Bee, yellowjacket, wasp and hymenoptera stings: Reaction types and acute management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 18, 2016.
- Stinging insect allergy. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Accessed July 18, 2016.
- Simons FER. Anaphylaxis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2010;125:S161.
- Bites and stings. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/Emergency-101/Emergencies-A-Z/Bites-and-Stings/. Accessed July 18, 2016.
- Marx JA, et al., eds. Venomous animal injuries. In: Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed July 18, 2016.
- Campbell RL, et al. Anaphylaxis: Emergency treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed July 18, 2016.
- Golden DBK. Stinging insect allergy. American Family Physician. 2003;67:2541.
- Casale TB, et al. Hymenoptera-sting hypersensitivity. New England Journal of Medicine. 2014;370:1432.