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Hornet, Wasp & Bee Sting Allergy

For most people, being stung by a bee, wasp or hornet is annoying and may be a little painful, but it is not a life or death situation. However, if you have an allergy to one of these insects, one sting can potentially be serious—the venom can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.1

A normal reaction to being stung by a bee, wasp or hornet includes itching, redness and swelling at the site of the sting. Most people get better within a couple of hours or days, but those who have an allergy to the insect that stings them, may experience more severe reactions to being stung.

When an insect stings you, they inject a toxic substance called venom. If you’re allergic, your immune system views the venom injected as a harmful invader and responds by releasing a chemical called histamine. The release of histamine and other chemicals is what causes your reaction.

Understanding insect venom >

If you  have an allergy to one of these insects, one sting can be serious infographic

Common insect sting symptoms

Most people may have the following symptoms at the site of the sting within minutes of a sting:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  •  Itching
  • Swelling
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Insect stings can also cause a sudden and potentially deadly allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.  

Anaphylaxis to insect stings has occurred in 3% of adults and can be fatal

Anaphylaxis Allergic Reaction

Anaphylaxis to insect stings has occurred in 3% of adults and can be fatal even on the first reaction.1 Signs of a more serious reaction that could lead to anaphylaxis include:

  • Itching, hives, or swelling over a large part of your body
  • Swelling of face or body
  • Throat or tongue swelling
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea or diarrhea

These signs could point to an incredibly serious reaction and require immediate medical attention.2

Learn more about anaphylaxis >

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First step to determine the cause of your reaction is to identify your triggers - although this can be difficult. So, how do you know if your symptoms are an allergic reaction to a wasp sting? If you think you or a loved one is allergic to insect stings, don’t try to manage the problem on your own.

A simple blood test—together with your medical history—can help identify underlying allergic triggers, if you have an allergy. Knowing if you’re allergic and what you’re allergic to may also help you avoid more serious issues in the future. Be sure to consult with your healthcare professional.


Get answers

  1. Golden D, Insect Sting Anaphylaxis. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2007; 27(2): 261-vii.
  2. Golden, D, Demain J, Freeman T et al. Stinging Insect Hypersensitivity: A Practice parameter update 2016. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2016;(118)28-54.