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Avoid & Treat Insect Stings

Picnickers, hikers, gardeners and outdoor sportsmen have to contend with stings by yellow jackets, yellow hornets, wasps and honeybees and ants. Insect bites and stings can cause reactions ranging from minor irritation, to serious allergic or toxic reactions. More than 1 million Americans report allergic reactions to insect stings; about 50 people each year die from the stings.

Most Common Stinging Insects

  • Honeybees
  • Wasps and hornets
  • Yellow jackets
  • Fire Ants
  • Harvester Ants


Tips to Help Take the Sting Out of Summer

 What Attracts InsectsHow to Protect Yourself


Dark clothing, flowery designs

Wear white or light-colored clothing. Wear long sleeves, pants, shoes and gloves when outdoors.



Scented products

Rinse off perspiration. Use unscented products.


Fruit, sweet drinks, juicesCover food and drinks.


Strong smelling perfume, cologne, hair products and lotions

Use fragrance free products. Wear repellant.


Uncovered trash cans, open bags of trash

Cover trash cans tightly and secure trash bags with ties.


Treat Insect Stings

Small local reaction: Use a cold compress with ice and take pain medicine.

Large local reaction: Elevate the sting and use a cold compress with ice, take pain medicine and antihistamine for itchiness.

Severe reaction: If you have swelling in the face, throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea, or itchy hives in large areas, take antihistamine and call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.


More Resources

What's Buzzing? How to Identify Insect Sting Allergy
Review How to Use an Epipen
Protect Against Mosquito, Tick and Flea Bites


This information has been approved by Kanao Otsu, MD, MPH, and Carah B. Santos, MD (May 2017).