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Venom & Stinging Insect Allergy 

For patients sensitized to the venom of stinging insects, being stung can be a a potentially life-threatening event.

Venoms from the Hymenoptera order of insects—commonly known as bees, wasps, and some ants—may cause systemic allergic reactions in some patients. These reactions, including anaphylaxis, can be severe and fatal even upon first exposure.1 Systemic reactions occur in only about 1% of children, compared with around 3% of adults.1 For those allergic to insect venom, the fear of a sting or bite has been reported to cause emotional distress, which can actually lead to a decrease in quality of life.1-3

After an initial sting, the immune systems of affected patients may respond by producing IgE antibodies. Any subsequent stings can trigger a more rapid inflammatory response. This IgE response, though, becomes a quantifiable way to understand and identify the insect to which a patient is allergic.1,4

Deaths from insect stings

Insect stings account for at least 40 deaths each year in the United States.5


Testing results are a valuable treatment decision-making guide

Diagnostic tests should be carried out in all patients with a history of a systemic sting reaction to detect sensitization. Venom Immunotherapy (VIT) is recommended as an option for the treatment of IgE-mediated bee and wasp venom allergy in patients who have had:6

  • a severe systemic reaction
  • a moderate systemic reaction and one or more of the following: concomitant pathology such as cardiovascular disease or mastocytosis, a high risk of future stings, or anxiety about future stings
  1. Golden DBK. Insect Sting Anaphylaxis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2007;27(2):261–vii.
  2. Oude Elberink JN, de Monchy JG, Golden DB, et al. Development and validation of a health-related quality-of-life questionnaire in patients with yellow jacket allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002;109:162–170.
  3. Bilo MB, Bonifazi F. The natural history and epidemiology of insect venom allergy: clinical implications. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009;39:1467-1476.
  4. Children's Minnesota. Chemistry: Allergen IGE, Wasp Venom. https://www.childrensmn.org/references/lab/chemistry/allergen-ige-wasp-venom.pdf
  5. Ludman SW, Boyle RJ. Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy. J Asthma Allergy. 2015;8:75-86.
  6. Bonifazi F, Jutel M, Biló BM, et al. EAACI Interest Group on Insect Venom Hypersensitivity. Prevention and treatment of hymenoptera venom allergy: guidelines for clinical practice. Allergy. 2005;60:1459-1470.