Children like to explore and are ever curious, so there could be a high chance of them getting stung by a bee. When a bee stings, it jabs its stinger, containing the venom, into the skin. A bee’s venom contains proteins that can cause swelling and itching near the infected site. Some children can develop a severe anaphylactic reaction to the bee’s venom.
Mild reactions can be treated with some home remedies. However, if your child is allergic to bee venom or if they have been stung numerous times, you might need to seek medical attention.
In this post, we tell you the symptoms, treatment options, and home remedies for a bee sting in kids.
What Does A Bee Sting Look And Feel Like?
Although honeybees, wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets look different, all of them sting when they are upset. If your child is stung by any of the insects mentioned above, they would feel a painful sensation similar to that of an injection.
The sting site may feel warm and may itch. You will also notice a tiny red dot, and the surrounding area may become bumpy or swell based on the amount of venom injected.
Symptoms Of Bee Sting
The symptoms of a bee sting vary from child to child. In some, it would be limited to temporary pain and discomfort, whereas in others, it could lead to a severe allergic reaction.
- Sharp pain and burning sensation at the sting site
- Slight swelling of less than 1cm in diameter around the affected area
- Bumpy and red skin around the sting site
In most cases, the reaction subsides within a few hours.
In some children, the allergic reaction to the bee’s venom might be slightly strong and show the following symptoms (1).
- Swelling that is larger than 1cm in diameter
- Redness that spreads around the sting site
A moderate reaction generally lasts for five to ten days. Seek prompt medical attention if the sting site is near the airways and the swelling causes breathing difficulty.
Severe allergic reaction
- Trouble breathing and swallowing within two hours of the bee sting
- A feeling of tightness in the chest and throat
- Red, itchy bumps on the skin (hives)
- Decrease in blood pressure
- A weak pulse
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Abdominal cramping
- Loss of consciousness
Multiple Bee Stings
Multiple bee stings are rare but could happen. If your child is surrounded by a swarm of bees, they may be stung by more than one bee. Sting bites between 30 and 50 have proven to be fatal in children (4).
If your child is stung by more than a dozen bees, the accumulation of the venom can cause a severe toxic reaction.
Risks And Complications Of Bee Sting In Children
Children who live close to beehives or those who often play in the woods are at a higher risk of getting stung by bees. If your child has only a mild reaction to the bee sting, it does not mean they are not at risk of developing anaphylaxis in the future. Repeated bee stings can lead to venom allergy as the child grows (5).
A mild to moderate reaction may not pose any severe complications, and the symptoms might subside in a week or two. However, if your child develops a severe allergic reaction, it can cause complications such as airway obstructions or cardiovascular issues.
How To Treat A Bee Sting In A Child?
- Ask your child not to panic if they are stung by a bee. Cover your child’s mouth and nose and calmly take them away from the area.
- Examine your child’s body. If there are multiple stings, it is best to take your child to the emergency room.
- Remove the stinger as early as possible to prevent the additional venom from getting into your child’s skin.
- Use a credit card or your fingernail to scrape out the stinger from the area gently. Never use a sharp object or a tweezer to remove the stinger, as it could push more poison into the skin.
- Wash the area with soap and water, and apply ice cubes to relieve itching, swelling from venom, and pain.
- You may also use over-the-counter medications such as cortisone cream, an antihistamine cream for severe itching or swelling.
Treatment For Severe Allergic Reactions
If your child shows symptoms of a severe reaction, it is imperative to seek medical attention without any delay. Your doctor will remove the bee sting and immediately administer an adrenaline shot to prevent airway obstruction, hypotension, and shock. The second-line treatment usually includes the administration of H1 and H2-antihistamines and glucocorticoids (4).
When To Call The Doctor?
Call your healthcare provider if the symptoms do not subside within a few days or if your child develops symptoms of severe allergic reactions.
Home Remedies For Bee Stings
If your child shows a mild reaction to the bee sting, you may try some of the following home remedies. However, talk to your pediatrician before trying them, as most of these home remedies lack scientific backing (7) (8).
- Baking soda paste: Mix baking soda in water and make a thick paste. Apply it to the sting bite, cover it with a bandage, and leave it for 15 minutes. Repeat it if needed. This is known to relieve itching and swelling.
- Cider vinegar: Anecdotal evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar can help neutralize bee venom. Dilute apple cider vinegar. Soak a bandage in the vinegar and apply it to the sting site.
- Toothpaste: This is another traditional home remedy for bee stings. It may be because the alkaline nature of toothpaste might neutralize the acidic bee venom. Apply some toothpaste to the affected area and leave it for 15 minutes. Repeat if needed.
- Papaya pulp: The enzyme papain in papaya pulp is believed to break down the protein that causes the symptoms after a bee sting. Mix one part of papaya pulp in four parts of water and apply the mixture onto the sting site. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and then wipe it clean.
- Garlic: Some people believe that the application of garlic paste on the sting site can help relieve the pain and itching. Although there is little scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, you may try it if your child is comfortable.
Prevention Of Bee Stings
Take the following measures to prevent bee stings in children.
- Make sure you inspect your garden and backyard for beehives or wasp nests. If you spot one, make sure you keep your children away from it or bring in professionals to handle it.
- Always dress your children in long sleeves and full pants when going into the woods.
- Ensure your children do not wear bright-colored clothes or sweet-smelling perfumes while going out, as these may attract bees.
- Always keep the windows rolled up while driving.
- Instruct your child to cover their food while eating outdoors.
- Do not let your child leave their soda cans unattended once open.
- Clear all garbage cans and do not let fruit or flowers rot as they may attract bees.
If your child develops anaphylactic reactions towards bee venom and if they are at risk of being stung by bees, consult your pediatrician for immunotherapy. It is a desensitization method to protect the child from getting another anaphylactic reaction if they are stung by bees in the future (1). If your child is not allergic to bee stings, then it could be treated at home. However, ensure you monitor your child closely to check and see if they develop an anaphylactic reaction.
2. Bee sting; Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research
3. Bee poison; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
4. Manuela B. Pucca et al.; Bee Updated: Current Knowledge on Bee Venom and Bee Envenoming Therapy; Frontiers in Immunology (2019).
5. Bee Stings and Venom Allergies; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
6. Bee Sting; St. Louis Children’s Hospital
7. Bee Stings: Is It an Allergic Reaction?; National Capital Poison Center
8. Mahmoud Abdu Al-Samie Mohamed Ali; Studies on Bee Venom and Its Medical Uses; International Journal of Advancements in Research & Technology (2012).
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