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Honey bees can sting, but usually only in defence. The severity of the reaction to a sting is related to the amount of venom injected, and this is directly related to the time the sting is in the flesh. So, the sting should be removed as quickly as possible. The conventional advice is to scrape the sting out with a finger nail.   

  • Move away from any bees as soon as possible and  try to wash the sting area as the sting gives out a scent which could attract more bees.
  • Try to remove the sting as quickly as possible by scraping over it with your fingernail or a piece of gauze. Never use tweezers to remove a stinger, as squeezing it can cause more venom to release into your skin.
  • Put a cold flannel or ice pack on the area and raise the part of the body that has been stung to prevent swelling.
  • Use a spray, or cream, containing local anaesthetic or antihistamine on the area to prevent itching and swelling. 
  • Take painkillers such as paracetamol (if the sting is very painful) and try not to scratch the area as it may become infected.

You should see your GP if the redness and itching does not clear up after 48 hours.

Most stings are painful but harmless, and only affect the area around the sting. However, some people can have an immediate and more widespread allergic reaction to being stung such as swelling or itching away from the site of the sting or anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Anaphylactic shock is quite rare, affecting approximately 3 people in 100, and it normally only happens with a wasp sting.

If collapse follows being stung or if you have wheezing or difficulty swallowing, you should call 999 immediately for an ambulance. You might be having an allergic reaction and may need to have an adrenaline injection, antihistamines, oxygen and/or an intravenous drip. Similarly, stings near the eye or inside the mouth should receive immediate medical attention.

Remember bee stings are to a great extent ignored by beekeepers in their thousands throughout the world, since they suffer no ill effects from them. They are even reputed to be good for rheumatism!  More advice on stings can be found at the following links to Anaphylaxis or Allergies