What are allergies to insect stings?
When you are
stung by an insect, poisons and other toxins enter your skin. It's normal to
have some swelling, redness, pain, and itching around the sting. But you may
reacts strongly to
in the sting.
You probably won't have a severe allergic reaction the first time you are stung. But even if
your first reaction to a sting is mild, allergic reactions can get worse with
each sting. Your next reaction may be more severe or even deadly.
What causes an allergic reaction to insect stings?
An allergic reaction occurs when your immune system reacts strongly to
the allergens in the sting.
A few types of stinging insects cause
most allergic reactions. They are:
- Yellow jackets.
- Fire ants.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of an allergic
reaction can range from mild to severe.
Mild reactions may cause:
- Redness, pain, and swelling around the
- Itching around the sting or anywhere on your body.
Large, local reactions may cause the same symptoms as mild reactions, plus:
- Redness and swelling that affects an entire arm, leg, or large part of your body.
- Swelling that continues to increase for up to 48 hours.
A large local reaction can take up to 10 days to go away.1
Severe reactions may cause:
- Swelling of your tongue, throat,
or other body parts.
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- , which is a severe, life-threatening reaction that requires emergency treatment. It causes confusion, trouble breathing, and other symptoms.
How are allergies to insect stings diagnosed?
doctor may do a physical exam and ask you questions about your symptoms and
past health. He or she also may want you to have allergy tests after you get
better from the allergic reaction. Allergy tests, such as skin prick tests or blood tests, can help you find out which
types of insect stings you are most allergic to.
How are they treated?
When you are stung
- For a severe reaction, such as confusion and trouble breathing:
- Call 911.
- If you have your allergy kit, use the antihistamine medicine and
shot. Then go to the emergency room.
- For a large, local reaction or a mild reaction, you can typically treat it at home.
- Use an ice pack to reduce
swelling. If you can, raise the body part where you were stung.
- Take a nonprescription pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol, for example), or ibuprofen (Advil, for example). Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 because of the risk of
- Take an
antihistamine to help with the itching. Read and
follow the warnings on the label. And don't give antihistamines to your child
unless you've checked with the doctor first.