Insect Stings & Anaphylaxis

How to prevent and treat bites and stings

It is now the time of year that insects are out and about. Following this simple advice will reduce the risk of a bite or sting and provides actions that should be taken for treatment. Remember, a casualty that receives a bite or sting could go into anaphylactic shock, with wasps and bees representing a particular danger.


Use insect repellent to prevent mosquitoes from biting. The chemical dimethyltoluamide is commonly used in repellent as mosquitoes dislike the smell. It is worth noting that insect repellent will not prevent a wasp or bee sting. As they will only sting if they instinctively feel threatened, a repellent will not provide protection.

If a wasp or bee is attracted close to you, simply stay still and do not make rapid movements with your arms as this will intimidate it. Remove yourself from the area by slowly walking away.


If you do get a sting or a bite, make sure that further danger is removed. If you are near a nest, remove yourself from the area. A wasp sting injects venom rapidly and is withdrawn, although this may be caught by clothing. A bee sting will remain in the skin until it is removed or falls out. To remove a bee sting, use a blunt object to slowly scrape out the sting. Try to remove this as quickly as possible.

Once the sting has been removed, cool the area with an ice pack or cool pack. There have been several different remedies stated over the years that supposedly help reduce the level of pain. In reality though, the venom has already been injected (between 5 and 50 micrograms), so there is no remedy that can reverse this.

For insects that are common in the U.K. there is usually no risk of any life threatening bites or stings. However, a casualty may go into anaphylactic shock, also known as anaphylaxis, which is caused by an allergy to the insect’s venom, so the signs and symptoms are important to spot. Anaphylactic shock is a serious medical emergency.

Anaphylactic Shock Signs & Symptoms

  • Swelling of skin which can appear red, blotchy, irritated and itchy
  • Rash on skin
  • Puffiness around the eyes
  • Swelling of throat and tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Confusion and anxiety
  • Signs of shock
  • Casualty could also become unconscious

Anaphylactic Shock Treatment

  • Call for emergency help. If another person is present, continue to treat the casualty whilst they dial 999 or 112. Tell the ambulance operator that you suspect anaphylaxis and let them know it could be related to the sting/bite.
  • Help the casualty to administer medication. Check to see if the casualty has an auto-injector of adrenalin. If you have been trained, help the casualty to administer it.
  • Make the casualty comfortable. Ensure to put the casualty into a position that helps with breathing. Observe the casualty closely and treat for shock if signs are observed.
  • Continuously monitor the vitals – response, breathing and pulse. Help the casualty to repeat administer adrenalin if there is no improvement after 5 minutes from first dose. Repeat every 5 minutes if no improvement or the symptoms of anaphylactic shock returns.

Note: if the casualty loses consciousness, open the airway and check for breathing and be prepared to commence cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Other triggers for anaphylaxis include allergies to certain foods, medicines, general anaesthetic and latex.

Learn crucial First Aid skills on one of our First Aid courses. To discuss your requirements, you can call one of our Sales Experts on 0208 203 7447 or book a course on our website.


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