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.

Insect stings from a bee, wasp or hornet can be painful but are usually not dangerous. First there is a sharp pain, followed by mild swelling, redness and soreness.

Sometimes they can cause the body to have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock), so it's important to look out for this and get medical help quickly if necessary.

There are four things to look for:

  1. Redness.
  2. Swelling.
  3. Itchiness.
  4. Stinging pain.

If you can see the sting, brush or scrape it off sideways. (Don't use tweezers to try and pull it out, or you could squeeze more poison into the wound).

Put an ice pack or something cold on the wound to reduce the swelling and raise the part of the body that's affected. If the sting is in the mouth or throat, get them to suck an ice cube or sip cold water.

Keep checking the casualty's breathing, pulse and level of response.

If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction - such as breathing difficulties or reddened, swollen itchy skin, particularly to the face or neck - call 999 or 112 for emergency medical help.

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.

Now read about Insect Bites and Stings

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Original Author:
St John Ambulance
Current Version:
St John Ambulance
Peer Reviewer:
St John Ambulance
Document ID:
28670 (v2)
Last Checked:
21 November 2016
Next Review:
21 November 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.