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Stinging Insect Testing

The Ear, Nose & Throat Associates of Chester County Allergy Center specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of all allergies including reactions to insect stings. Stinging insects found in the United States include honeybees, yellow jackets,hornets, wasps,and fire ants. While not everyone is allergic to insect venom, reactions in the skin such as mild pain, swelling, and redness may occur with an insect sting.

What types of Insect Sting Reactions Occur?

Nonallergic Reactions:

Most insect-sting reactions are not allergic and result in local pain, itching, swelling, and redness at the site of the sting. Some extension of the swelling is expected. Local treatment is usually all that is needed for this type of reaction. Disinfect the area, keep it clean, and apply ice. Topical corticosteroid creams are sometimes used to decrease inflammation, and antihistamines can help control itching.

Large local reactions may involve increased swelling (that lasts for 48 hours up to one week) that may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Large local reactions occur in about 10% of insect stings and are not allergic in origin. Occasionally, the site of an insect sting will become infected, and antibiotics are needed.

Allergic Reactions:

Systemic (body-wide) reactions are allergic responses and occur in people who have developed antibodies against the insect venom from a prior exposure. It is estimated that between 0.3%-3% of stings trigger a systemic allergic reaction.

The allergic reaction to an insect sting varies from person to person. Symptoms of an allergic reaction can include itching, hives, flushing of the skin, tingling or itching inside the mouth, and nausea or vomiting. Themost serious allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. Difficulty breathing, swallowing,hoarseness, swelling of the tongue, dizziness, and fainting are signs of a severe allergic reaction. These types of reactions usually occur within minutes of the sting but have been known to be delayed for up to 24 hours. Prompt treatment is essential, and emergency help is often needed.


An allergic reaction is treated with epinephrine (adrenaline). Several self-injectable devices are available by prescription,

Immunotherapy is an effective way to reduce or possibly eliminate an allergic reaction to bee venom