Patient Information

Allergens-Insect Stings 


Insect stings that most commonly cause allergic reactions:

Insects that are members of the Hymenoptera family most commonly cause allergic reactions. These include:




yellow jackets

fire ants

Allergic reactions to insect stings:

Usually, the reaction is short-lived, with redness and swelling followed by pain and itching. Generally, the reaction lasts only a few hours, although some may last longer.
For other people, however, allergic reactions to these insect stings can be life threatening. This severe reaction is a medical emergency that can involve organ systems throughout the body. The reaction is called anaphylaxis and can include severe symptoms such as:

itching and hives over most of the body

swelling of the throat and tongue

difficulty in breathing



stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea

rapid fall in blood pressure


loss of consciousness

Immediate medical attention is required.

Can insect stings be prevented?

Avoidance of insects is the best preventive measure. Suggestions include:

When outdoors, be careful of eating or drinking uncovered foods or beverages, which can attract insects.

Avoid going barefoot, and wear closed-toe shoes when walking in grassy areas.

When gardening, watch for nests in trees, shrubs, and flower beds.

Other areas in which to use caution: swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses, trash containers.

Treatment for insect stings:

Specific treatment for insect stings will be determined by your physician based on:

your age, overall health, and medical history

extent of the reaction

your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

expectations for the course of the reaction

your opinion or preference

Suggestions for immediate treatment for highly-allergic people, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, include:

    When possible, immediately remove stinger, and scrape over the area with a fingernail. However, do not squeeze the area, which may force the venom into the body.

    An emergency treatment kit should be kept nearby at all times. Talk with your physician about what it should include.

    Seek emergency care as soon as possible.

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