Insects that are members of the Hymenoptera family most commonly cause allergic reactions. These include:
The reactions are usually at the site of the sting, with redness, swelling, pain and itching. Generally, the reaction lasts only a few hours, although some may last longer.
For some people, allergic reactions to insect stings can be life-threatening. The reaction is called anaphylaxis and can include severe symptoms such as:
Itching and hives over most of the body
Swelling of the throat and tongue
Difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest
Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea
Rapid fall in blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
Seek immediate medical attention.
Preventive measures include:
Keep food covered when eating outdoors.
Be careful with open drink bottles, or cans. Insects can fly or crawl inside them.
Avoid perfumes, hair products, and deodorants.
Avoid wearing bright, flowered clothing.
Avoid going barefoot, and wearing sandals in grassy areas.
When gardening, watch for nests in trees, shrubs, and flower beds.
Be careful near swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses, and trash containers.
Suggestions for treatment for highly allergic people include:
Immediately remove the stinger by scraping it with a fingernail. Do not squeeze the stinger, which may force the venom into the body.
Always carry epinephrine self-injections called Epi-pens. Make sure you and those close to you know how to use them.
With severe symptoms, get emergency treatment as soon as possible.
Talk with your healthcare provider about getting an epinephrine self-injector if you don't already have one. Ask about whether you need immunotherapy or allergy shots.
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200