bee stings and wasp stings

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Pain from bee and wasp stings can be eased by cooling with ice cubes and by hydrocortisone cream.

To remove a bee sting, scrape it sideways with a finger nail or knife blade as quickly as possible. Avoid squeezing the venom sac, which continues to pulsate after being detached from the bee.

There are more deaths from anaphylaxis to bee and wasp stings in the UK and in the USA than from all other venomous bites and stings put together

  • data from the USA suggest that the prevalence of allergy to bee and wasp venom is between 0.4% and 3.3%. In the UK, insect stings are the second most frequent cause of anaphylaxis outside medical settings

    • estimated that of all deaths from anaphylaxis between 1992 and 2001 in the UK, approximately 62% were a result of reactions to wasp venom and approximately 9% were caused by reactions to bee venom. Some people who have a systemic reaction after being stung do not have another reaction when re-stung

    • estimated that after a large local reaction 5-15% of people go on to develop a systemic reaction when next stung

    • approximately 14-20% of those who have a mild systemic reaction have another systemic reaction when next stung. For people who have experienced an anaphylactic reaction, the risk of having a recurrent episode is estimated to be between 60% and 70%

    • serum tryptase may be measured at baseline (after a reaction to a sting has subsided) because this may predict the severity of a response to a subsequent sting


Last reviewed 01/2018