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Bee and Wasp Stings

Bee and Wasp Stings Overview

Although many different types of insects in the United States are able to inflict a poisonous bite or sting (meaning they are venomous), the insects most likely to cause medical problems are bees (including the domestic honey bee, its Africanized "killer bee" race, and the bumble bee), wasps (including paper wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets), and ants (including the fire ant). These insects are all in the Hymenoptera order, and thus stings from them are occasionally called Hymenoptera stings.

Because many of these species live in colonies, if one stings you, you may be stung by many. Although most stings cause only minor medical problems, some stings may cause serious medical problems and even death.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/23/2014
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Bee And Wasp Sting - Self-Care

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Bee and Wasp Sting - Treatments

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Bee and Wasp Sting Symptoms

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Medical problems from bee and wasp stings are broadly broken down into two categories:

  • Local reactions (only the part of the body near the sting is affected)
    • Immediate pain, redness, swelling, and itching at the sting site may occur.
    • A large (greater than four inches across) local reaction may develop over the next 12-36 hours.
    • A bacterial skin infection, although uncommon, may also begin during the first 12-36 hours (or even after the first few days).
    • These may cause an enlarging area of redness at the sting site. It may be difficult to tell a local skin reaction and a local bacterial skin infection apart.
  • Systemic or allergic reactions (parts of the body away from the sting are affected)
    • Hives (raised itchy bumps on the skin) and itching all over the body
    • Swelling of the mouth or throat or both
    • Wheezing
    • Shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Anxiety
    • Chest pain
  • In severe cases, marked difficulty breathing, unconsciousness, and even death may occur.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Bee and Hymenoptera Stings »

Hymenoptera stings account for more deaths in the United States than any other envenomation.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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