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    Are You Allergic to Insect Stings?

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    If you get stung by a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant, would you know if you had an allergic reaction?

    Those are the insect stings that most often trigger allergies. Most people aren’t allergic. By knowing the difference, you can decide if you need to see a doctor.

    3 Types of Reactions

    The severity of symptoms from a sting varies from person to person. But in general:

    A normal reaction sets off pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site.

    A large local reaction causes swelling that extends beyond the sting site. For example, a person stung on the ankle may have swelling of the entire leg. While it often looks alarming, it's usually no more serious than a normal reaction. Large local reactions peak at about 48 hours and then gradually get better over 5 to 10 days.

    The most serious reaction is an allergic one (described below). You'll need to get it treated right away.

    What Are the Symptoms of an Insect Sting Allergy?

    A mild allergic reaction may cause one or more of these symptoms at the site of the sting:

    • Pain
    • Redness
    • Pimple-like spots
    • Mild to moderate swelling
    • Warmth
    • Itching

    Severe allergic reactions (also called an anaphylactic reaction) are not that common. But when they happen, they're emergencies.

    Symptoms can include:

    Get emergency treatment as soon as possible.

    How Common Are Insect Sting Allergies?

    About 2 million Americans have allergies to the venom of stinging bugs. Many of these people are at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions.

    Treatment if You’re Not Allergic

    First, if you’re stung on the hand, remove any rings from your fingers immediately.

    If stung by a bee, the bee usually leaves a sac of venom and a stinger in your skin. Remove the stinger within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom. Gently scrape the sac and stinger out with a fingernail or a stiff-edged object like a credit card. Don’t squeeze the sac or pull on the stinger, or more venom will get into you.

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