Dealing with Insect Stings

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This leaflet is created from first aid advice provided by St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity. This advice is no substitute for first aid training - find a training course near you.

Usually a sting from a bee, wasp, or hornet are not serious and are more painful than dangerous. But with any insect bite or sting it is important to look for signs of an allergic reaction.

  • Relieve any swelling and pain.
  • Arrange any medical treatment, if necessary.
  • You need to reassure and calm the person down.
  • There will be pain and possibly some redness and swelling around the site of the sting.
  • If the sting is visible, brush or scrape it off. You could use the blunt edge of a knife or a credit card for instance. Please don't use tweezers, as you risk squeezing more poison into the wound.
  • Apply an ice pack or cold compress for at least 10 minutes, and if possible raise the affected part.
  • If swelling and pain persist, advise the person to see their doctor.
  • Stings to the mouth and throat can be dangerous. There is a risk of the tissues in the mouth and throat swelling, which could cause the airway to become blocked.
  • Sucking on an ice cube, or an ice cream or lolly, for instance, for children, or sipping cold water will prevent any swelling.
  • However, if the swelling starts to develop and breathing becomes difficult then arrange for medical help immediately.
  • Some people suffer severe allergic reactions to insect bites and stings, if the person shows any sign of impaired breathing or swelling to the face, neck, tongue, mouth or lips or shows a widespread rash then dial 999/112/911 for an ambulance.

Note: these hints are no substitute for thorough knowledge of first aid. St John Ambulance holds first aid courses throughout the country.

Adapted from the St John Ambulance leaflet: insect stings. Copyright for this leaflet is with St John Ambulance.

Original Author:
St John Ambulance
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28670 (v1)
Last Checked:
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