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Allergy Shots for Insect Stings

If you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting, talk to your doctor about immunotherapy, or allergy shots. This is a type of long-term treatment that can help you prevent future allergic reactions to stings.

Allergy shots work by injecting tiny amounts of the allergen (insect venom) into your body over time. Your body gets used to the allergen and if you get stung again, you won’t have such a bad reaction.

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The first thing your doctor will do is test you to find out which insects you’re allergic to.  Then you’ll get shots once or twice a week with tiny doses of purified insect venom. The dose will go up slightly over time until you reach a maintenance dose, usually in about three to six months. You’ll get longer stretches of time between doses in the maintenance phase -- about once or twice a month for 3-5 years, although some people need to keep taking shots for longer.

For most people, allergy shots are safe and work well. You may have some redness and warmth at the injection site. Some people may have other skin reactions, including itching, hives, or swelling of the skin.  In rare cases, allergy shots can cause a more serious or even life-threatening reaction. For that reason, you’ll get the shots at your doctor’s office.    

Allergy shots are not for everyone. If you have never had a serious allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting, you probably don’t need them for insect allergy. They may be more risky for people with heart or lung disease, or who take certain medications. Be sure to tell your allergist about your health and any medicines you take, so you can decide if allergy shots are right for you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 16, 2012

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