Stinging Insect Allergy


An aller­gy to a sting­ing insect occurs when your immune sys­tem over­re­acts to the ven­om from an insect sting. Many peo­ple con­fuse the nor­mal red­ness, swelling and pain caused by an insect sting for an aller­gy. An aller­gy to an insect sting is usu­al­ly more severe than these symp­toms and is occa­sion­al­ly life threat­en­ing. You can be stung by an insect for the first time and not have an aller­gic reac­tion, but when stung a sec­ond time have an aller­gic reac­tion since your body has cre­at­ed anti­bod­ies from the first sting.


The most com­mon stings that cause an aller­gic reac­tion are from the below insects:

  • Yel­low Jackets
  • Hon­ey­bees
  • Paper wasps
  • Hor­nets
  • Fire Ants


The sever­i­ty of an insect sting reac­tion can vary. A nor­mal reac­tion to most stings is pain, swelling and red­ness at the site of the sting. If you have a reac­tion beyond these nor­mal symp­toms, you may be expe­ri­enc­ing an aller­gic reac­tion to the sting. 

Symp­toms of an aller­gic reac­tion to a sting include:

  • Hives, itch­ing and swelling in areas oth­er than the sting site
  • Abdom­i­nal cramp­ing, vom­it­ing, intense nau­sea or diarrhea
  • Tight­ness in the chest and dif­fi­cul­ty in breathing
  • Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue or throat, or dif­fi­cul­ty swallowing
  • Dizzi­ness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of con­scious­ness or car­diac arrest
  • Ana­phy­lax­is


To diag­nose an insect aller­gy, you can meet with an aller­gist who will dive into your health his­to­ry look­ing for pre­vi­ous sting reac­tions to deter­mine if your symp­toms are aller­gic or non-aller­gic. Your aller­gist may also rec­om­mend a skin test to deter­mine if you are aller­gic to insect stings. If the skin test in incon­clu­sive, your aller­gist may rec­om­mend an intra­der­mal test to look for signs of an aller­gic reaction. 

Man­age­ment and Treat­ment

The first way to man­age an insect sting aller­gy is to try and avoid stings from sting­ing insects. Know where they like to make their nests and when they are most active and use extreme cau­tion when work­ing or play­ing in these areas. 

To man­age an insect sting aller­gy, ven­om immunother­a­py is some­times used to help pre­vent fur­ther aller­gic reac­tions to stings. 

If your insect sting aller­gy is life threat­en­ing, injectable epi­neph­rine is usu­al­ly pre­scribed as emer­gency med­ica­tion for treat­ing a life-threat­en­ing allergy.