Children & Adolescents Clinic

 Home Parent's Guide

Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Spanish version

Bee Stings


Your child was stung by a honey bee, bumble bee, hornet, wasp, or yellow jacket. Over 95 percent of bee stings are by yellow jackets. These stings cause immediate painful red bumps. While the pain is usually better in 2 hours, the swelling may increase for up to 24 hours.

Multiple stings (more than 10) can cause vomiting, diarrhea, a headache, and fever. This is a toxic reaction related to the amount of venom received. It is not an allergic reaction, which would cause difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, passing out, or hives.

Home Care

  1. Treatment

    If you see a little black dot in the bite, the stinger is still present (this only occurs with honey bee stings). Remove it by scraping it off. If only a small fragment remains, it will come out on its own. Then rub each sting for 20 minutes with a cotton ball soaked in a meat tenderizer solution. (Avoid in the area around the eye.) This will neutralize the venom and relieve the pain. If meat tenderizer is not available, apply an aluminum-based deodorant or a baking soda solution for 20 minutes. For persistent pain, massage with an ice cube for 10 minutes. Give acetaminophen immediately for relief of pain and burning.

  2. Prevention

    Some bee stings can be prevented by avoiding gardens and orchards and by not going barefoot. Insect repellents are not effective against these stinging insects.

Call Your Child's Physician Immediately (or Call 911) If:

  • Breathing or swallowing is difficult.

Call Your Child's Physician During Office Hours If:

  • The swelling continues to spread after 24 hours.
  • Swelling of the hand (or foot) spreads past the wrist (or ankle).
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems