How to Treat a Bee or Wasp Sting if it's Still Swelling After 48 Hours - featured image

How to Treat a Bee or Wasp Sting if it's Still Swelling After 48 Hours

Updated May 24, 2024

If you’ve just been stung by a bee, wasp or yellow jacket, you have my sympathies. That sucks.

Besides the apparent and instant discomfort of a sting or bite, you might experience a slight allergic response. This reaction could result in inflammation, redness, and pain at the sting's location, especially if the insect happens to leave a stinger. The acute discomfort from the sting will likely dissipate within a few hours. Subsequently, you can expect your symptoms to diminish within a span of 24-48 hours.

Nonetheless, persisting wasp sting swelling after 48 hours warrants treatment. If you're allergic or had severe reactions to bee stings before, this is especially true and you should possibly visit urgent care.

Try these simple methods and home remedies to help with the symptoms of a wasp sting. They can also be applied to treat a bee sting. Especially, if the swelling persists beyond 48 hours.

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Determine if You Have an Allergic Reaction to the Insect Sting

First things first. This is an important one. You need to determine if you are having a serious allergic reaction to a honey bee or hornet sting, which may become evident a few hours after the bee sting.

An allergic reaction to the affected area of a bee or wasp sting

Bee and wasp stings are often painful and irritating for individuals who aren't allergic. Luckily, these situations are typically not life threatening. Most wasp sting reactions are localized and mild. Yet it's important to monitor the sting and look for any evolving symptoms over the next three days after the sting. Some individuals may experience a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. This is especially true in the case of a honey bee sting, as they can leave a stinger embedded in the skin. Tragically, symptoms of anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. So it's critical to ensure prompt treatment.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include difficulty breathing, wheezing, tightness in the throat, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and loss of consciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms after a wasp sting, seek emergency medical attention immediately, as anaphylaxis can be fatal if left untreated.

Individuals conscious of their bee sting allergy typically carry an EpiPen. This is a precautionary measure for potential emergencies involving anaphylactic reaction, which can occur even hours after the sting.

An EpiPen being used

The EpiPen is a tool that helps people give themselves a shot of epinephrine. This offers an efficient method for alleviating anaphylaxis symptoms. This is particularly pertinent if a bad reaction to a bee sting occurs. Even if the EpiPen is used, people should still call 911 or go to the emergency room right away. They may need first aid, further medical care and observation there. It's important to stay vigilant, as swelling may increase 48 hours after the sting.

If you usually feel uncomfortable after being stung, you should be worried. A rash or hives developing at the site within hours is often telling. These symptoms suggest an allergic reaction brought on by insect sting allergies. Consequently, seeking medical assistance might be necessary.

Your symptoms develop later on. If the pain continues for over 48 hours, start treatment as soon as you can.

Symptoms of a wasp sting

The symptoms of a wasp or bee sting may depend on your body's sting reaction. Stings usually make the area where you were stung red, swollen, itchy, and painful. In some cases, severely allergic reactions can result from wasp stings too. It's very important to monitor your symptoms for any signs of a systemic reaction.

If you have trouble breathing, vomiting, or feel faint after a wasp sting, get medical help right away. If you experience all of these symptoms, get help right away.

Remove the stinger

If a wasp stings you, the first step is to quickly remove any stinger in your skin. To minimize venom intake, try scraping it off with your fingernail or using tweezers. This can help reduce the severity of reactions. If you neutralize the venom, large local reactions can be reduced as well.

The difference between a bee and wasp sting

While bees die after stinging something, wasps can sting multiple times. This makes it easier for them to cause a widespread reaction if they sting multiple times in one area. Wasp venom is stronger than that of bees, which can cause more severe reactions and sting symptoms.

What to do if the wasp sting is still swelling after 48 hours

First things first. Don't panic. Next:

Keep the Area of the Wasp Sting Clean

After removing the stinger, clean the sting area with soap and water to reduce bacteria. If your wasp sting is still swelling, it can keep your skin from healing. Any reaction to wasp venom that remains on the sting site can cause more swelling and exacerbate the situation.

A swollen bee or wasp sting

To remove venom or debris, use a clean cloth to gently wipe the affected area until there is no more residue or the pain subsides. To ease discomfort while wiping, apply ice or cold water to the area. This will numb the area and make it easier to clean.

Apply Ice Packs to The Sting Area

To reduce swelling, apply a cold ice pack or wet towel to the sting for 10-15 minutes every two hours. The cold temperature will reduce pain and swelling and numb the area. This works by decreasing the blood flow, which decreases the inflammation reaction to a wasp sting.

If you don’t have ice packs, you can use a frozen bag of vegetables wrapped in a towel to help with pain and swelling.

Take an Anti-Inflammatory Medicine

If you are stung by a bee or wasp, your doctor may give you anti-inflammatory medicine as a treatment. It will help you avoid a severe allergic reaction and reduce pain, redness and swelling in the area.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), can help reduce swelling and pain associated with a wasp sting. For adults, the recommended dosage is typically 200-400 mg of ibuprofen or 220-440 mg of naproxen every 4-6 hours, not exceeding the maximum daily dose.

However, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking other medications, as anti-inflammatory drugs can interact with certain medications and may have side effects.

A doctor injecting a corticosteroid

Sometimes, if the doctor thinks it’s necessary, they may also give you a corticosteroid injection. This is to reduce any allergic reactions that could be caused by the sting and help reduce the persistent swelling. 

Soothe the Pain

To alleviate pain quickly and effectively, try using a product like Dermeleve®. Dermeleve® is mainly used to treat itching, but it also effectively soothes stinging pain on the skin. Dermeleve® is a topical pain reliever that works quickly when applied directly to a sting, making it an effective treatment for a bee or wasp sting.

Dermeleve tube

Users often feel results in as little as five minutes, and experience relief for up to six to eight hours.

Apply a thin layer of Dermeleve® directly to the affected area and gently massage it into the skin. Reapplication can be done every 4-6 hours as needed for relief. Dermeleve® is generally safe for repeated use, because it doesn't have steroids. This means you can use it for a long time without worrying about serious side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Stay Hydrated to Reduce Sting Swelling

When you have a bee sting or wasp sting, your body releases water to dilate the capillaries so it can release swelling and histamine. Staying hydrated will help decrease swelling in the area of a mild to moderate wasp sting.

Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to treat a swollen bee or wasp sting

Water is the best choice, but flavored drinks like Gatorade can also keep you hydrated and fight dehydration.

Hydration isn't just limited to beverages. You can stay hydrated by eating fruits and vegetables with lots of water, like strawberries, pineapple, and cucumbers. In fact, some studies have shown that drinking water-rich fruits and vegetables can be just as effective as drinking plain water.

See a Doctor if Your Sting is Still Swelling After 48 Hours

If the swelling around the sting site continues to increase in size after 48 hours, or if it spreads beyond a 10-centimeter (4-inch) diameter, it's important to seek medical attention. A doctor can offer some insight into the cause of the swelling and recommend further treatments. They might recommend an antibiotic cream to prevent infection. Or they might suggest a corticosteroid shot to reduce inflammation.

A wasp sting can stay swollen for hours if you are having an allergic reaction

Other concerning symptoms that warrant a doctor's visit include excessive redness, warmth, or streaking around the swollen area, as these could indicate an infection. Additionally, if the swelling is accompanied by fever, chills, or overall body aches, it's best to consult a healthcare professional.

If you have a bee sting allergy, see a doctor right away after getting stung. Your condition could get worse fast if not treated promptly.

Remember, it's a good idea to see a doctor even if you feel fine, just in case.

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Recap

Let's recap. Many people are afraid of bees and wasps, but unfortunately, sometimes getting a bee or yellow jacket sting is unavoidable.

A wasp stinger

To minimize the risk of being stung by a wasp, avoid wearing bright colors, floral prints, or perfumed products, as these can attract wasps. When spending time outdoors, wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, and avoid walking barefoot. If you encounter a wasp nest, do not attempt to remove it yourself; instead, contact a professional pest control service for safe removal.

If someone is at risk of a severe reaction, like anaphylactic shock, they need immediate medical help after being stung. Most people will only have a mild reaction, in which the swelling may decrease on its own.

While wasp stings are typically harmless, it's crucial to monitor the sting site for signs of infection, which can occur if the area is not properly cleaned or if the venom causes an adverse reaction. Watch for increasing redness, warmth, swelling, or streaking around the sting site, as well as the presence of pus or oozing. If you suspect an infection, seek medical attention promptly, as antibiotics may be necessary to prevent the infection from spreading.

To treat a bee or wasp sting, apply a cold compress and take anti-inflammatory medicine. Use Dermeleve® to soothe pain and itch, and stay hydrated. If your swelling persists for 48 hours or more, or if you have an allergic reaction, it is recommended to see a doctor.

To treat your bee or wasp sting quickly and effectively, follow these steps. Then, you can go back to enjoying the outdoors!

 

Want to learn more? Check out our YouTube video all about Wasp and Bee Stings!

FAQs 

Q: How can I treat a bee or wasp sting if it's still swelling after 48 hours?


A: If the swelling around the sting site is still there after 48 hours, see a doctor. If you have a sign of an allergy or infection, see a healthcare professional for treatment.


Q: What are the different types of reactions that can occur from a bee or wasp sting?


A: bee or wasp sting can cause three types of reactions: local, large local, and systemic. When you get stung, the area hurts, turns red, swells, and itches. When you have a large local reaction, your swelling will be significant and cover an area bigger than 10 centimeters. Allergic reactions, called systemic reactions, can be mild or severe. They may cause hives, breathing problems, dizziness, or anaphylaxis.


Q: What is anaphylaxis and how is it related to bee or yellow jacket stings?


A: Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can occur in response to a bee or yellow jacket sting. It is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis symptoms can make it hard to breathe, swell up the face or throat, make the heart beat fast, cause dizziness, and make someone pass out. Epinephrine is the main treatment for anaphylaxis and should be given as soon as possible in these cases.



Q: Can I treat a bee or wasp sting at home?


A: Most bee and wasp stings can be treated at home with simple remedies. First, remove the stinger if it's still embedded in the skin. Clean the area with soap and water, then apply a cold compress or calamine lotion to reduce swelling. You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to alleviate pain. But if you have more symptoms or if the swelling doesn't go away, see a doctor.



Q: How can I differentiate between a normal localized reaction and an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting?



A: Normal localized reactions to bee or wasp stings include pain, redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the sting. These reactions usually subside within a few days. Allergic reactions, on the other hand, involve more severe symptoms that extend beyond the site of the sting. Some symptoms of an allergic reaction are hives, itching, trouble breathing, dizziness, and swelling. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention, as it could indicate an allergy to bee stings.



Q: Are there any home remedies that can help relieve the swelling and pain associated with a bee or wasp sting?



A: Yes, there are some home remedies that may help alleviate the swelling and pain from a bee or wasp sting. Applying a paste made of baking soda and water to the affected area can help reduce inflammation. Placing a cold compress or ice pack on the sting site can also provide relief. But remember, home remedies may not be enough for serious allergies or infections. If that happens, get medical help.



Q: Should I delay seeking medical attention if I am allergic to bee stings?



A: If you have an allergy to bee stings, don't wait to get medical help if you have severe symptoms. Remain calm and move away from any remaining insects that could continue to sting. If possible, go inside and close the windows and doors to prevent other insects from entering. Allergies can quickly get worse and possibly lead to anaphylaxis. So it's important to treat them promptly with medicine like epinephrine. This can save lives. If you're allergic to bee stings, it's best to always have an epinephrine auto-injector, a key treatment for a bee sting allergic reaction. Use it right away if you have an allergic reaction.


Q: Can a bee or wasp sting cause a serious allergic reaction even if I have never had a reaction before?



A: Yes, a bee or wasp sting can cause a serious allergic reaction, even if you've never reacted before. Allergies can start anytime. When you get stung for the first time, your body can react in a way that causes allergies when you get stung again. This is why it's critical to be aware of the symptoms and treatments for insect sting allergies. It's important to know the signs of an allergic reaction and get emergency medical care if needed.



Q: What should I do if I have been stung by a bee or wasp and develop hives or other allergic symptoms?


If a bee or wasp stings you and you get hives or other allergic symptoms away from the sting, see a doctor right away. If you have allergic reactions to insect stings, you may need to get treated right away. Take antihistamines, corticosteroids, or epinephrine. These will help you to feel better and stop the reaction from getting worse.


Q: Should I talk to my doctor about bee or wasp stings and how to treat them?


A: It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about bee or wasp stings, especially if you have an allergy or had severe reactions before. If you get stung by a bee or wasp, ask your doctor for advice. They can tell you when to see a doctor and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector if needed. If you have a severe known bee allergy to bee or wasp stings, they might suggest allergy testing or desensitization therapy to avoid a serious reaction.

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