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My Experience of a Bee Sting Near My Eye (With Photo Progression)

Robin has been keeping bees and harvesting honey for many years. She enjoys being a backyard beekeeper.

Yes, this is me 24 hours after a bee sting to my eyelid—and this isn't an allergic reaction.

Yes, this is me 24 hours after a bee sting to my eyelid—and this isn't an allergic reaction.

What to Do If a Bee Has Stung You in the Eye

Being stung by a bee can be a very scary occurrence—and if you are stung in the eye, it can be days before you are back to normal. Being a beekeeper, I expect to be stung; it's part of the job. I didn't, however, expect to be stung in the eye.

This Article Includes:

  • Symptoms of a bee sting allergy
  • Information on treatments—both home remedies as well as prescriptions
  • A photo progression chronicling the recovery of my facial swelling from hours after the sting up to six days when I was almost fully recovered
  • Types of reactions
  • Information on how long the itching and swelling will last
  • Prevention
  • Information on bee biology

Normal Reaction or a Bee Sting Allergy?

If you are having any of the following symptoms, immediately call 911 or go to the hospital. You are having an allergic reaction to the bee sting if you are experiencing:

  • shortness of breath
  • a difficult time swallowing
  • swelling in the mouth or throat
  • a break out of hives
  • increased heart rate
  • decrease in blood pressure

How to Treat a Bee Sting: Act Fast!

Being a beekeeper and going through extensive training, you learn how to properly remove bee stingers and treat stings. The sting that I had to my eye, however, needed some medical attention. The advice that I give is from my training as a beekeeper and from the doctor that I saw.

In most cases, doctor involvement is not needed for non-allergic reactions. However, if you are stung near your eye, you may choose to get prescription medication from your doctor.

  1. After a bee stings you, a stinger and sac of venom are left behind in your skin. To reduce the amount of venom in your body, remove the stinger and bag of venom as quickly as possible. You can scrape the stinger and bag of venom out of your skin with a fingernail or other similar object. Do not pull out the stinger or squeeze the location, as more venom can be released. The longer that you leave in the stinger, the more venom will be left in your body, causing swelling and itchiness.
  2. Once the stinger is removed, wash the area with soap and water and apply antiseptic and soothing cream like hydrocortisone.
  3. If possible, and if over two years of age and not pregnant, immediately take an antihistamine, e.g., Benadryl, to reduce swelling and itching. (When I was stung on my finger, I had minimal swelling and itching because I took a Benadryl immediately. I did not take a Benadryl shortly after my facial sting because I didn't want to fall asleep. It was a big mistake.)
  4. Apply an ice pack to the site to reduce swelling and for pain relief.
  5. For additional pain relief, you can take an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen.

Over-the-Counter, Prescription, and Home Remedy Bee Sting Treatments

Over the CounterPrescription (The doctor that I saw recommended the following treatments)Home Remedies for Bee Stings (apply to site of sting)

Soap and water

Dexamethasone (Decadron) a corticosteroid to treat allergy. It decreases your body's natural defense response and reduces symptoms such as swelling and allergic-type reactions

Meat tenderizer and water paste

Antiseptic

Famotide (Pepcid) an H2 Histamine blocker.

Tobacco juice

Hydrocortisone Cream or Calamine Lotion

Hydroxyzine (Atarax) treats itching. Blocks natural substance (histamine) that your body makes during an allergic reaction. Causes drowsiness.

Vinegar

Ice Pack

Aloe

Benadryl or other Antihistamine

Toothpaste

Ibuprofen

Honey

Baking soda and water paste

Chewed plantain leaf

Crushed basil or parsley leaves

Allergic Reactions Are Extremely Dangerous

Severe allergic reactions can result in death within minutes of being stung. Having an Epi-Pen on hand if you are allergic to bees is a must. I had a reaction to the sting that was fairly severe, mainly due to the location of the sting on my eyelid. I, however, did NOT have an allergic reaction to the venom. It is very rare for someone to be allergic to bee venom, however, around 50 people a year die from a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting.

Medications I Took After the Bee Sting

This treatment was under the advisement of an emergency room doctor:

  • Day 1: Benadryl every 8 hours and ice.
  • Day 2: Benadryl in the morning. I was given a prescription in the afternoon. Took 10mg of Dexamethasone (Decadron), one tablet of Hydroxyzine, and one tablet of Famotidine.
  • Day 3–6: Hydroxyzine and Famotidine until swelling and itching were gone as prescribed.
Bee sting swelling around eye the day after the sting

Bee sting swelling around eye the day after the sting

Three Types of Bee Sting Reactions and Symptoms

NormalLocalizedAllergic

Pain at site of sting

Pain around site of sting

MEDICAL ATTENTION IS NEEDED IMMEDIATELY

Swelling at site of sting

Swelling can extend beyond site of sting. If stung in eye, could radiate to bridge of nose, down cheek, and to other eye

Difficulty breathing and swallowing

Redness at site of sting

Redness around site of sting

Face, throat and mouth swelling

Increased heart rate

Hives (red and itchy spots) beyond site of sting

Drop in blood pressure

Dizziness

Restlessness or Anxiety

The Progression of My Facial Swelling: Day One to Day Six After the Bee Sting

One of the scariest parts of being stung by a bee on your face is the reaction. I chronicled my progression as a guide for those that have been stung. It took about a week for my face to fully recover, and there were a few especially bad days. If you've been stung, I hope your reaction wasn't as bad, but if it is, you will fully recover.

Day One:

I was stung in the afternoon after going into my hive. I started swelling within an hour. If you've just been stung, make sure you remove the stinger quickly, take Benadryl as soon as possible, and ice the site of the sting. I also suggest calling your doctor to see if she/he will prescribe any of the medicines I recommend above.

A few hours after sting

A few hours after sting

Eye beginning to close a few hours after sting

Eye beginning to close a few hours after sting

Eye almost closed four hours after sting

Eye almost closed four hours after sting

Day Two: The First Day After the Sting

The eyelid where the sting occurred is completely closed in the morning. I began prescription medicine. The swelling began to travel down my face, into my jaw, and across the bridge of my nose.

The morning after the bee sting, one eye is completely closed. This was a scary, almost claustrophobic feeling. The second day was definitely the worst.

The morning after the bee sting, one eye is completely closed. This was a scary, almost claustrophobic feeling. The second day was definitely the worst.

Eighteen hours after bee sting

Eighteen hours after bee sting

One day after the bee sting to the eye. I began prescription medication 24 hours after the initial sting.

One day after the bee sting to the eye. I began prescription medication 24 hours after the initial sting.

Close-up of eye one day after the sting

Close-up of eye one day after the sting

Day Three:

I have been taking prescription medicine for one day. The eyelid is open, but bruising is more evident. The cheek, jaw, and bridge of the nose are puffy.

48 hours after the bee sting to the eye. I began prescription medication 12 hours prior.

48 hours after the bee sting to the eye. I began prescription medication 12 hours prior.

Reaction on the third day. The bruising is more evident in this photo.

Reaction on the third day. The bruising is more evident in this photo.

48 hours after the bee sting to the eye. Began prescription medication the previous day. I finally went out of the house, although I wore sunglasses all day.

48 hours after the bee sting to the eye. Began prescription medication the previous day. I finally went out of the house, although I wore sunglasses all day.

Day Four:

I'm feeling a lot better today. The eyelid is almost completely open. Bruising and slight swelling is still evident.

Four days after bee sting

Four days after bee sting

Four days after bee sting

Four days after bee sting

Day Five:

There is still some swelling in my jaw, and I still have bruising under the eye. This was actually a difficult day to be seen because I looked like I was in a fight and not stung by a bee.

Five days after bee sting. Eyes are slightly puffy and black and blue underneath.

Five days after bee sting. Eyes are slightly puffy and black and blue underneath.

Day Six:

I'm almost back to normal. There's still slight bruising and swelling.

On day six, the eye is still slightly puffy and black underneath.

On day six, the eye is still slightly puffy and black underneath.

How Long Will the Swelling and Itchiness Last?

If you are stung on a sensitive part of your body, like the eye or lip, it can take five to seven days for the swelling to be completely gone. If you are stung on another part of your body (a hand, arm, leg, or foot), the swelling should go down in two to three days. However, in most cases, you will have itchiness for up to a week.

The amount of swelling from a bee sting depends on:

  • The location of the sting (areas of the body that are more sensitive, like the lip or eye, swell significantly more)
  • Whether or not you promptly removed the stinger
  • Your treatment of the sting immediately after being stung
Bee stinging and leaving behind stinger

Bee stinging and leaving behind stinger

How To Prevent Bee Stings

Worker honey bees sting for one reason: to protect the hive or themselves. Honey bees are usually not offensive animals; they sting if they are threatened. Simply letting the bee be, is your best course of action. The bee will eventually fly away, and you will be left without a sting, and the bee will be back to its business of collecting nectar and pollinating your flowers. However, if you swat, hit, or step on the bee, it will most likely sting you. It is a natural defense mechanism.

The Hive: A Superorganism

Bees are fascinating animals. The hive works as one large superorganism; each bee has a job. Their role in the hive is predetermined by their age and what is occurring in and out of the hive. The bees that sting are either guard bees or forager bees. Bees near a hive sting to protect their home. Away from the hive, most bees will not sting if they land on you.

Beekeepers wear protective clothing for this reason. Guard bees protect the hive from intruders, whether they are a skunk or a human. Most beekeepers are not stung when they go into the hive because they take precautions. The two best defenses against bee stings are your protective clothing and smoke.

How Does Smoke Prevent Bee Stings?

For a beekeeper, having a good smoker is a must. Smoke does two main things: it causes bees to consume honey rather than defend the hive and masks alarm pheromones. When a bee smells smoke, it goes into survival mode. It is no longer protecting the hive because the hive is on fire. It instead gorges itself on honey to ensure its survival when it is time to fly out of the hive to safety.

Smoke will also mask the alarm pheromone that bees emit when they are under attack. When a hive is "under attack," guard bees will raise their abdomen and release an alarm pheromone called isopentyl acetate. This pheromone is also released when a bee stings inciting other bees to follow suit to protect the hive. This alarm pheromone chemical is also found in bananas; this is why stings sometimes smell like bananas and a reason to never bring a banana near a hive or eat one before entering a hive.