Bee, wasp and ant stings factsheet


Bee, wasps, and ants are insects that use a sharp part of their body, called a stinger, to pierce the skin and inject a small amount of poison to cause a painful reaction. These insects will use their stinger to defend themselves from animals and humans that can hurt them.

It is important that your child learns about the types of insects that can sting, how to stay away from them and what to do if they get stung.


Bees can fly and are usually found in gardens and around flowers. A bee will sting you only once, as using their stinger causes them to die. Sometimes, the stinger will be left in the skin.


Wasps can look similar to bees. They can fly and often build their nests in places with wood. This includes houses and children’s play equipment. Wasps are aggressive and can sting multiple times without hurting themselves.


Ants come in different colours, like black, red, brown, and green. They are usually found walking in large groups. Some ants will bite the skin to hold it in place while stinging multiple times. Because ants travel in groups, children are at risk of having multiple ant stings at the same time. 

 Signs and symptoms

You can usually tell which insect your child has been stung by.

  • a bee will leave its stinger behind in the skin
  • a wasp will usually try to continue stinging you
  • an ant may have bitten onto the skin before stinging and may still be attached.

These symptoms of a sting can develop slowly and last for days. They can be very painful and cause: 

  • itching
  • redness
  • swelling 
  • a hot feeling around the sting 
  • a red lump with a border of white skin.

Some children can have a severe allergic reaction to stings called anaphylaxis.

Signs of anaphylaxis include: 

  • wheezing, difficult, or noisy breathing 
  • swelling of the tongue
  • swelling or tightness in the throat
  • a persistent cough
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • dizziness
  • becoming pale and floppy in young children
  • collapsing.

Children at risk of anaphylaxis may also vomit.

If your child has signs of anaphylaxis, you should:

  • follow your child’s ASCIA action plan for anaphylaxis if you have one
  • use an EpiPen® or Anapen®, if there is one available
  • call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.


All children with anaphylaxis to insect stings will need to see a specialist doctor, such as an immunologist or allergist, for testing and treatment.


Insect stings that do not cause anaphylaxis can be treated by:

  1. carefully remove the stinger or ant by using tweezers or something firm like a bank card
  2. washing the area with soap under cool running water
  3. applying an antiseptic if available and covering with a bandage
  4. putting an Icepack on the sting to reduce swelling
  5. giving your child over-the-counter pain relief like paracetamol or ibuprofen to manage pain
  6. giving your child oral antihistamines to manage itching, redness and swelling.

Call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 if you have any concerns or if your child has had multiple stings.


Preventing bee, wasp, and ant stings

Teaching your child to leave insects and animals alone is one of the most important ways you can help prevent stings. It is helpful to recognise where these insects live and places they might build their homes, including:

  • beehives on trees
  • wasp nests on houses or play equipment
  • ant’s nests or mounds in the park.

If your child comes across a bee, wasp or ant’s nest while playing outdoors, it is important that they do not try to hit or swat the insects or destroy their nests. 

Disturbing or destroying a wasp’s nest or ant hill can cause these insects to react, making it more likely that your child will get stung.

Call an exterminator for advice or treatments if you notice more ants or wasps around the house.

You can also reduce the risk of stings by:

  • making sure food and drink are covered
  • cleaning up sticky or sweet spills, like honey, as soon as possible
  • dressing children in long pants, sleeves and closed shoes when bushwalking or exploring areas where bees, wasps and ants are commonly found.
Last updated Tuesday 9th April 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024