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Stings by bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets will cause pain, swelling, itching, and redness at and near the location of the sting. In some children, allergic reactions to the insects' venom can also trigger other symptoms beyond a local skin reaction; they may become dizzy and weak, or have diarrhea or hives. On occasion, they may have difficulty breathing.

After a bee sting, carefully remove the stinger from your child's skin as quickly as possible, thus minimizing the venom that enters the body. Use the blunt edge of a knife to gently brush away the stinger and the attached venom sac; or, if possible, pull it out with a pair of tweezers. Once the stinger is gone, apply cool, damp compresses or an ice pack to the area in order to minimize swelling and relieve the pain. A solution containing water and a commercial meat tenderizer, wet baking soda, or calamine lotion can also be placed on the bite to reduce the discomfort. Your doctor might also recommend an oral antihistamine or a nonprescription corticosteroid ointment.

Sometimes a bee sting may result in problems that require an emergency response—specifically, if your child is having difficulty breathing or if he is exhibiting signs of shock (such as rapid breathing, dizziness, or cool, clammy skin). In such a case, call 911 or your emergency rescue number. Also, call your doctor if your child has received multiple stings, or if he develops hives in a part of the body away from the sting itself (for example, if he gets stung on the arm but gets hives on the legs).

Children who tend to have severe reactions to stings should take special precautions. When outdoors, they should wear shoes, socks, long trousers, and long-sleeved shirts. Doctors might also suggest allergy shots (hyposensitization) for these youngsters, intentionally exposing them to small amounts of the insect's venom. Families can also have an emergency kit available at home, in the car, and with them when they travel; the kit should be equipped with a syringe filled with life-saving adrenaline that should be administered if a sting occurs that causes difficulty breathing or signs of shock. (A child in shock will appear pale, cold, and clammy and have a weak and rapid pulse; his breathing may be weak and he may be semiconscious or unconscious.


Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.