Insect Sting Reactions

h-patient2Stinging insect allergies are less common than others, but roughly 5% of Americans suffer from severe allergic reactions to insect stings. People are most commonly allergic to stinging insects such as bees, wasps and a specific type of stinging ants. While some people are allergic to biting insects – ants, mosquitoes, black flies, etc. – the most severe reactions occur from the stinging insects.

Stinging insect allergies are actually caused by the patient’s immune system overreacting to the insect venom that is deposited during a sting. Generally, the skin, nose, sinuses, eyes, throat and lungs are most often affected by an allergic reaction, but the effects can occur anywhere on or in the body. Reactions to insect venom should be taken seriously and can be life- threatening, especially if the patient exhibits signs of anaphylaxis.


Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. If not treated immediately, it can lead to unconsciousness, even death. Symptoms typically occur within minutes, even seconds, after the insect sting. In some cases, the patient could experience anaphylaxis 30 minutes or longer after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Skin reactions, like hives and itching, and flushed or pale skin
  • Feeling a lump in your throat
  • A rapid and weak pulse
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Constriction of your airways, and a swollen throat or tongue, which can led to wheezing and trouble breathing


If a patient has anaphylactic attacks caused by insect stings, we may recommend immunotherapy (allergy shots) to lessen the body’s allergic response and possibly prevent future serious attacks.


Many people at risk for having an anaphylactic attack carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) to treat their allergic symptoms. We always advise that patients and those closest to them know how to use this device. Patients should always remember to replace their epinephrine autoinjector when it expires.

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