Skip to content

    Allergies Health Center

    Select An Article

    Are You Allergic to Insect Stings?

    Font Size

    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.

    Recommended Related to Children

    Helping Your Child Use a Nebulizer

    Sometimes children’s allergy symptoms don’t stop with a stuffy nose and watery eyes. If your child has allergic asthma, the most common form of asthma, exposure to allergens like pollen and mold can cause breathing passages to become swollen and inflamed. Childhood allergies that trigger asthma can lead to wheezing, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing. When that happens, your child’s doctor may prescribe the use of a breathing machine called a nebulizer. The following Q & A will help...

    Read the Helping Your Child Use a Nebulizer article > >

    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:

    • Trouble breathing
    • Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting
    • Swelling of the face, throat, or mouth tissue
    • Wheezing or trouble swallowing
    • Restlessness and anxiety
    • Rapid pulse
    • Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure

    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.

    1 | 2 | 3
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    man blowing nose
    Make these tweaks to your diet, home, and lifestyle.
    Allergy capsule
    Breathe easier with these products.
    cat on couch
    Live in harmony with your cat or dog.
    Woman sneezing with tissue in meadow
    Which ones affect you?

    blowing nose
    woman with sore throat
    lone star tick
    Woman blowing nose

    Send yourself a link to download the app.

    Loading ...

    Please wait...

    This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


    Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

    cat lying on shelf
    Allergy prick test
    Man sneezing into tissue
    Woman holding feather duster up to face, twitching