Bees: they’re very important and needed, but they also pack quite the sting! Getting stung by a bee is quite the painful experience, especially for a child. During summer, with bees out in full force collecting nectar from flowers, there is an increase in bee stings. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to prevent bee stings as well as how to treat them, in addition to discussing what to do in the case of allergic reactions to bee stings.
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Remind your child that if they don’t bother bees, bees most likely won’t bother them! Bees are generally pretty docile creatures and are intent on just gathering nectar and getting back home. So, instruct your child not to panic or start swatting when they see a bee, and instead to remain still or calmly walk away (we know that’s not always easy!). Swatting at the bee or poking around a hive will send the bee into defense mode. Also, avoid walking barefoot outside because stepping on a bee is a good way to get stung! Finally, if you’re outdoors having a picnic or cookout and have cans of soda or other drinks, keep them covered while you’re not drinking from them. Bees sometimes enter containers of these drinks because they can sense the sweetness!
Treatment for bee stings
If your child does get stung, he or she will likely have a raised, red welt at the site of the sting. Occasionally the bee’s stinger may remain lodged in the skin; this can be removed with tweezers. The sting site may feel sore for a day or two after the sting, but shouldn’t be painful. To relieve the soreness and help bring the bump down more quickly, try icing it. If your child is feeling very uncomfortable, a little anti-inflammatory pain medication (ibuprofen) may be given. Applying a low potency steroid cream, like 1% hydrocortisone cream, will help reduce the local inflammatory reaction from the venom of the sting. Generally, the welt will go down within a matter of hours, but normal swelling from venom can increase for 48 hours after the sting. The redness can last a few days and the swelling can last up to 7 days.
If there is progressive worsening redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, or pus draining from the sting site, a secondary bacterial infection should be considered. If this is the case, your child will require further evaluation and oral antibiotic therapy may be necessary.
Severe allergic reactions
Allergic reactions to bee stings do happen. Any of the following symptoms soon after a bee sting may indicate an allergy: hives, difficulty breathing, throat/tongue swelling, quickened or weakened pulse, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or fainting. If your child experiences difficulty breathing, throat/tongue swelling, or quickened and weakened pulse, an immediate trip to the emergency room is required because he or she may have a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. If your child has a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting, he or she will likely be prescribed injectable epinephrine to have on hand should they get another bee sting.
In general, most bee stings don’t require a visit to the doctor or urgent care. If in doubt, give your pediatrician or local pediatric urgent care a call to get further advice. And, of course, an anaphylactic reaction is a medical emergency and requires an immediate trip to the ER.