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Stings by honeybees, hornets, bumblebees, yellow jackets and wasps may cause mild to severe reactions in your child.

Honeybee -  bright yellow and black with hairy bodies. The female stings, and leaves the stinger. They are found around flowers (clover). Honeybees are aggressive when threatened.

Yellow Jacket - yellow and black, smaller than the hornet. These insects make their nests in the ground. Sweet/fruity areas (picnics, garbage cans, and compost piles) attract yellow jackets. They are easily provoked. The female stings, but does not leave the stinger.

Hornet - yellow or black and white markings. These insects have a narrow waist, shortened abdomen. Hornets are often found around large animals that attract flies. Their nest is globular (oval) and looks like paper mache. The nests may be found anywhere, in trees, shrubs, and house eaves. Hornets sting repeatedly, but do not leave a stinger.

Wasp - black, brown, or red with a narrow pinched waist and a cigar-shaped abdomen. The nest is a circular comb which opens downward. Wasps build nests in almost any unprotected place such as clothesline poles, swing sets, attics, behind shutters, and under eaves. Wasps do not leave a stinger. 

What You Might See in Your Child: 

Mild Reaction: Most children will only have a mild reaction around the site of the sting. This usually begins right away, but may seem to be much worse after 24 to 36 hours. In a mild reaction, you may see:

  • The place where the child was stung becomes red, warm, swollen and painful to touch. Your child may complain that it may itch or burn.
  • If this is the area where the child was stung, it is still called a local reaction, and there is no reason for alarm.
  • Some local reactions are more of a problem due to the area they affect such as inside the mouth.

Severe Reaction: 

  • Hives, cough, tightness in your child’s chest or throat, or swelling of the face may occur. This usually starts right away but may not be seen for 24 hours.
  • There may be wheezing or trouble breathing.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea or severe stomach pain may also be present.
  • There could be headache, fever, a feeling that something terrible is about to happen, muscle spasms, seizures or your child could pass out.


Once your child is known to have a severe reaction to stings, your child may need to carry an emergency auto-injector kit (EPI-Pen® or Twinject®) for any future insect sting reactions. 


The best treatment is prevention. Warn your child about what these insects look like and to stay away. If your child is stung, there are some things that you can do to help relieve the pain and help the area to heal. These are listed under home care. If your child has a strong reaction or develops an infection at the site, he/she will need to be seen by his/her doctor.

Home Care Instructions

Usually local reactions get better with time. To help your child, you can do the following:

  • Rest and raise the arm or leg that was stung to help the swelling go down.
  • If the stinger is in, take it out by flicking it out with a fingernail or credit card. DO NOT try to grab the stinger with tweezers or your fingers. This can cause more venom to go into the skin, or even break the stinger off under the skin.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply cold compress to the area to reduce swelling and help stop pain and itching.
  • You can make a paste from Adolph’s® unseasoned meat tenderizer or baking soda and water and apply it to the sting.
  • An over-the-counter antihistamine (Benadryl®) may be given to lessen the itching. Give the dose recommended on the bottle.
  • An over-the-counter topical Hydrocortisone 1% may be given to lessen swelling over the area.

Call Your Child's Doctor if:

  • Itching or pain gets so bad your child cannot sleep.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • The bite/sting gets red with weepy, crusted sores. This is a sign of infection.
  • Your child is not getting better or seems to be getting worse. 

Immediate Treatment for a Severe Reaction: 

Call 911 or Get to the Nearest Emergency Department as Quickly as Possible!

If your child has more than a local reaction to a bite or sting, or has worse reactions each time he/she is stung or bitten, you should talk to your child’s doctor about:

  • What attracts the insects, and ways to avoid being stung.
  • Carrying an emergency auto-injector kit (EPI-PEN® or Twinject®), and how to administer it.
  • "Allergy shots" for your child so that future bites and stings are not as bad. 
  • Wearing a "Medic Alert" bracelet or necklace.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 04/2008

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