Stinging Insect Allergy Symptoms

How to tell if you have insect sting allergies.

Stinging Insect Allergy Symptoms

Stinging is a defensive mechanism of insects like bees, wasps, and hornets. Usually, an insect sting leaves a swelling or redness around the sting site, which usually subsides in a few hours, but in people with insect sting allergy, the insect venom can cause much more serious complications.

Wasp stings can leave a painful swelling often accompanied by an itching sensation around the area if you are allergic. The first sting by a wasp may not cause much allergic reactions, but once your body is sensitized to its venom, it will react more aggressively to another bite, and cause severe allergic reactions.

Bee stings are similar to that of the wasps, but the point of difference is that it leaves the stinger on your skin along with its venom sac. You should be very careful when removing the stinger. Avoid plucking it with your fingers, because you may end up pressing the venom sac, releasing more venom into the skin. Use something with a hard and straight edge (like an ATM card) and scrape the stinger out of your skin.

Ants, especially the red and wood variety, sting whenever they feel threatened or trapped. Even though you may feel a stinging sensation, it is pretty harmless because it has lesser toxins than wasps or bees. It may often leave a pale red mark on the skin, but it will go away in a few hours.

Insect sting allergy symptoms vary from person to person. Some may have a mild localized reaction, while others show signs of extensive systemic reactions, which can be life threatening. According to the extent of reactions, allergy symptoms are popularly classified into three groups:

Mild Localized Reaction:

This type of reaction includes localized pain and/or itching along with a minor swelling and redness in the stung area. The symptoms may last a few hours or days, but usually subsides on its own without much medical care. Though you may have mild reactions on the first bite, your body will repeat it with greater intensity upon subsequent bites.

Large Localized Reaction:

Large localized reaction or LLR refers to the class of allergic symptoms that spreads over a larger area around the sting mark. Often the entire arm or leg of the victim may swell up. Other symptoms include rashes, nausea, and swollen joints. The symptoms may last for days, but will go down on their own unless the venom has reached the lungs. Allergic inflammation of the lung tissues can be fatal and require immediate medical attention.

Systemic Reaction:

Systemic reactions or SR occur in people who are genetically hypersensitive to insect stings and those who have sensitized immune system after being stung before. It is found that more than the wasps, its the bee stings that are most likely to cause severe allergic reactions also known as anaphylaxis. The symptoms include difficulty in breathing or swallowing, nausea, swollen face, and in extreme case even cardiac arrest. If you see signs of systemic reaction after getting stung by an insect, call an ambulance immediately before the condition gets worse.


If you have a localized reaction like a mild swelling or pain around the area where you were stung, use a cold compress for easing the pain and swelling. You can also use instant relief medications like Autan cooling insect spray to soothe the sting and relieve the pain. Use an anti-itch cream like Lanacane for quick relief from itching caused by the sting. If the reactions have spread to a large area, consult a doctor and get the prescribed antihistamine tablets to reduce the symptoms.