Insect Sting Allergy

An insect sting can cause pain, redness, and itching at the sting site. Symptoms of an allergic reaction are usually contained in the area of the sting site (localized). An allergic reaction usually occurs within minutes of an insect sting. Redness and swelling of the sting site may last as long as 1 week.


  • A local reaction at the sting site can cause:

  • Pain.

  • Redness.

  • Itching.

  • Swelling.

  • A systemic reaction can cause a reaction anywhere on your body. For example, you may develop the following:

  • Hives.

  • Generalized swelling.

  • Body aches.

  • Itching.

  • Dizziness.

  • Nausea or vomiting.

  • A more serious (anaphylactic) reaction can involve:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing.

  • Tongue or throat swelling.

  • Fainting.


  • If you are stung, look to see if the stinger is still in the skin. This can appear as a small, black dot at the sting site. The stinger can be removed by scraping it with a dull object such as a credit card or your fingernail. Do not use tweezers. Tweezers can squeeze the stinger and release more insect venom into the skin.

  • After the stinger has been removed, wash the sting site with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

  • Put ice on the sting area.

  • Put ice in a plastic bag.

  • Place a towel between your skin and the bag.

  • Leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes, 3 to 4 times a day.

  • You can use a topical anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone cream, to help reduce itching.

  • You can take an oral antihistamine medicine to help decrease swelling and other symptoms.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • If prescribed, keep an epinephrine injection to temporarily treat emergency allergic reactions with you at all times. It is important to know how and when to give an epinephrine injection.

  • Avoid contact with stinging insects or the insect thought to have caused your reaction.

  • Wear long pants when mowing grass or hiking. Wear gloves when gardening.

  • Use unscented deodorant and avoid strong perfumes when outdoors.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace that describes your allergies.

  • Make sure your primary caregiver has a record of your insect sting reaction.

  • It may be helpful to consult with an allergy specialist. You may have other sensitivities that you are not aware of.


  • You experience wheezing or difficulty breathing.

  • You have difficulty swallowing, or you develop throat tightness.

  • You have mouth, tongue, or throat swelling.

  • You feel weak, or you faint.

  • You have coughing or a change in your voice.

  • You experience vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps.

  • You have chest pain or lightheadedness.

  • You notice raised, red patches on the skin that itch.

These may be early warning signs of a serious generalized or anaphylactic reaction. Call your local emergency services (911 in U.S.) immediately.


  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.


American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology:

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: