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What to do when getting stung by a wasp or bee

Whether you're at a fun garden party or spending a leisurely day in the park, you're bound to hear the buzz of a bee or wasp once in a while. After all, summer is high season for wasps and bees. But getting stung can be extremely unpleasant and painful. And for allergy sufferers, it can even be life threatening.

Wasps and bees are most active in August and September, and they will invariably discover the smell of delicious food and sweet-smelling perfumes and sun cream. Moreover, bright colours can also attract small insects. For wasps and bees, stinging is a means of self-defence, but for us it causes swelling, itchiness and pain.

Wasp or bee sting?
A bee sting is quite easy to identify because the stinger and venom sack remain clearly visible at the place of the sting.

If the stinger remains in the skin, be sure to remove it as quickly as possible. But don't pull it out with your fingers, because this will cause the venom sack to empty into the wound. Instead, use tweezers or a tick card.

Quick measures

  • Apply cold to the place of the sting quickly in order to reduce the swelling and alleviate the pain.
  • Use a bite away, an electronic device that heats up the place of the sting, thus reducing the itchiness and swelling, or preventing it all together.
  • Apply anti-inflammatory ointment, such as an antihistamine cream; or take an antihistamine tablet.
  • Do not scratch the place, because this can cause bacteria to get into the wound and infect it.
  • Stings to the neck and throat can result in life-threatening swelling of the respiratory tract, also in persons who are not allergic, and you would need to get emergency treatment in such a case.

Allergy attack
Approximately three to four percent of the Swiss population is allergic to insect bites. An allergic reaction involves symptoms that occur within only a few minutes – often also in a place far away from the sting – in the form of itchiness, swelling, nettle rash, vomiting, heart palpitations, and loss of blood pressure, among other things. In the worst case, the person may experience a so-called anaphylactic shock (cardiac arrest, unconsciousness, or respiratory arrest). It is essential to contact a doctor immediately in such a case. A doctor can also prescribe an emergency kit with medicines for alleviating allergic reactions and stabilising the circulatory system.

sante24 – your health advice helpline
The doctors and medical staff of sante24 are available to share their expertise on health issues, free of charge and around the clock. sante24 will also make a doctor's appointment for you on request. Tel. +41 (0)44 404 86 86