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Stinging insects

Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Yellow Jackets and Ants all belong to the same class of insects but Ants will be covered separately because of some important differences from the others.

Children have a tendency to aggravate these insects through agitated movement and noise. This behavior can evoke attack and potentially lead to severe allergic reactions, which in some cases can be life-threatening.

Photos of the stinging insects are available (click here)

  • The stings of bees and other stinging insects differ because the stinger of the bee remains in the victim’s skin, whereas the wasp and hornet may sting multiple times.
  • If a person is is allergic to bee stings, for example, they most likely will be allergic to wasp stings and other stinging insects.
  • Because the venom from ant bites is different than the other stinging insects, a person who develops allergic reactions to ant bites does not necessarily develop allergic reactions when stung by a wasp or yellow jacket, for example.

What are the signs and symptoms of a sting from a bee, wasp, hornet or yellow jacket?

  • Most people who are stung by an insect will have redness, itching, swelling, and some pain around the sting site as a result of the injected venom (see photo called Bee sting and Bee sting 2).
  • These signs and symptoms may increase over 24-48 hours and usually resolve in 5-10 days.
  • Although less common, a skin reaction to a stinging insect may occur away from the sting site as well including hives (see photo called Hives), itching, and redness.
  • Severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) may occur in some individuals after being stung by bees, wasps, or yellow jackets.
  • A severe reaction may occur immediately or hours after a sting.
  • A severe allergic reaction may involve breathing difficulty (wheezing), swelling deep in the throat, or low blood pressure

What do I do if my child is stung by a bee, wasp, or other stinging insect?

1. If a stinger is present, remove it ASAP by scraping a sharp edge (e.g., credit card) across the wound. Do not touch or squeeze the stinger. This will force venom (poison) into the skin.

2. Wash the sting site with soap and water.

3. Cool compresses may help stop the pain and swelling.

4. Antihistamines for hives and itching – avoid using both oral and antihistamine creams.

5. In some cases, your doctor may need to treat your child with steroids.

Individuals who know they are allergic to wasp or bee stings should carry an epinephrine (adrenalin) auto-injector (Epi-Pen) whenever they may be exposed to these insects.

When should I call my pediatrician concerning a sting by a bee, wasp or yellow jacket in my child?

  • It is best to call for specific instructions when the area on your child where the sting occurred is expanding rapidly or pain and itching is increasing despite cool compresses and antihistamines.
  • You should also call your doctor or 911 immediately if your child’s symptoms worsen such as difficulty breathing, significant lethargy or anytime an Epi-Pen is required.

How do I lessen the risk of my child being stung by a bee, wasp, or other stinging insect?

12 Helpful Tips

    1. To avoid being stung, stay away from places where stinging insects are found such as around flowers,  garbage cans, picnic grounds, and other places food is kept.
    2. Be aware of surroundings. Listen for buzzing and look for nests or hives.
    3. While you are walking in grassy areas or doing yard work, wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, gloves, and shoes.
    4. Do not go barefoot on lawns with flowering plants nearby, or wear open toed sandals, as you risk a painful sting on the foot.
    5. Wear light-colored clothing. Dark blue and black seem to attract attack.
    6. Carry protection. Use a flying insect killer with a long-range spray only when necessary, as injured insects send out pheromones which attract others to their defense. Though repellents aren’t effective against bees or wasps, the continuous flow of air from an aerosol spray can may confuse them, giving you time to escape.
    7. Hold still when in the presence of a stinging insect. Tell kids to pretend they’re statues. Rapid movement startles the bee and encourages stinging.
    8.  Try blowing gently on the bee. This can encourage it to move on while not startling it.
  1. If attacked, place your hands and forearms across your head to protect your eyes, throat and neck. Brush insects off the skin with a sideways motion. Move away quickly and quietly, as agitated movement and noise can irritate the insects and evoke further attacks.
  2. Remove and destroy nests, if necessary, at night when the insects are not active. If doing so, use flying insect killer liberally to soak the nest before you start and during the removal. Do not stand below a nest you are removing as injured insects may fall out of the nest.
  3. Dont wear strong perfumes or cosmetics, particularly floral-scented ones, which can attract bees and wasps.
  4. Dont leave opened cans of sweet drinks or beer standing around. Always check before drinking from an open container, even if it contains only water.

Be aware of your surrounding for bees and wasps!