Insect Sting Allergy


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Insect Sting Allergy

October 15, 2014



Which Insects are a problem?

yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, bees, and fire ants.


How common is this?

• More than 500,000 Emergency Room visits

• 40-150 deaths per year



• immediately, within minutes, or even hours after the sting (although never more than 24 hrs.).

• hives, itchiness, and swelling in areas other than the sting site, difficulty in breathing, dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure, nausea, cramps or diarrhea, unconsciousness and cardiac arrest.


Preventing Insect Stings

• Stay out of the "territory" of the stinging insects' nests. Insect repellents DO NOT  work with stinging insects

• If you encounter any flying stinging insects, remain calm and quiet, and move slowly away from them.

• Avoid brightly colored clothing and perfume when outdoors.

• Be careful when cooking, eating, or drinking sweet drinks like soda or juice outdoors. Keep food covered until eaten.

• Wear closed-toe shoes outdoors and avoid going barefoot. Also, avoid loose-fitting garments that can trap insects between material and skin.


Treating stings

• Honeybees-- that has left its stinger (and attached venom sac) in your skin, remove the stinger within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom. A quick scrape of a fingernail removes the stinger and sac. Avoid squeezing the sac - this forces more venom through the stinger and into the skin.

• Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets do not usually leave their stingers. Try to remain calm, and brush these insects from the skin promptly with deliberate movements to prevent additional stings. Then, quietly and immediately leave the area.

• Fire ants-carefully brush them off to prevent repeated stings, and leave the area. Fire ant stings usually result in the development of a blister about 24 hours after the sting. DO NOT “pop” this blister


Treating Local Reactions

• Elevate the affected arm or leg

• Apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. 

• Gently clean blisters with soap and water to prevent secondary infections; do not break blisters. 

• Use topical steroid ointments or oral antihistamines to relieve itching. 

• See your doctor if swelling progresses or if the sting site seems infected.


Treating Severe Reactions

• Try to avoid being outdoors in case you require prompt emergency treatment.

• Carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenalin) device. Learn how and when to use this device and replace it before the labeled expiration date.

• Consider wearing a special bracelet or necklace that identifies the wearer as having severe allergies and supplies other important medical information.


Consulting your allergist
• An allergist/immunologist, who will take a thorough history, perform an examination and recommend testing to determine whether you have an allergy, and which type of stinging insect caused the reaction.

• Your allergist/immunologist will help you determine the best form of treatment.

• People who have severe allergies to insect venom should consider receiving insect venom immunotherapy, a highly effective vaccination program that actually prevents future allergic sting reactions in 97% of treated 


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