Skip to Content
Home > Health Information > Health Library > Care of an Insect Sting
Insect stings often cause minor swelling, redness, pain, and itching. Most bites and stings will heal on their own without a visit to a doctor. There are several things you can do to relieve pain and itching and prevent infection from a bite or sting.
After you are stung, try to move away from the stinging insect. Bees will alert other bees, making them more likely to sting. Remain as calm and quiet as possible. Movement will increase the spread of venom in your bloodstream.
It is important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible after a sting. Even a delay of a second or two in removing the stinger is likely to increase the amount of venom you receive. In less than 20 seconds after a sting, 90% of the venom is injected into your body.
To quickly remove the stinger:
If you have been stung on the arm or leg, lower the limb at the time of the sting to slow the spread of venom. Hours later, if swelling is present, you can elevate the limb to help reduce swelling.
Apply an ice pack to a bite or sting for 15 to 20 minutes once an hour for the first 6 hours. Always keep a cloth between your skin and the ice pack, and press firmly against all the curves of the affected area. Do not apply ice for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and do not fall asleep with the ice on your skin.
When not using ice, keep a cool, wet cloth on the bite or sting for up to 6 hours.
After the first 6 hours, if swelling is not present, try applying warmth to the site for comfort.
Try a nonprescription medicine for the relief of itching, redness, and swelling.
When using nonprescription medicines, be sure to follow all labels and instructions.
Current as of: June 26, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineH. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
Current as of:
June 26, 2019
Medical Review:William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
See important information from Billings Clinic on Non-discrimination and Interpreter Services.
Billings Clinic is proud to be an equal opportunity/affirmative action (EOE/AA) e-verify employer.