Bee and Wasp Sting Allergies

Bee and Wasp Sting Allergies

For many individuals, a bee or wasp sting results in a painful, but minor irritation, usually limited in severity. For some susceptible individuals however, the injected venom can trigger a severe, or even life-threatening (anaphylaxis) allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can be specific to one area (localized) or throughout the body (generalized). Individuals with moderate to severe allergic reactions or with any reaction away from the site of the sting should consider being seen at Skin and Laser Dermatology Center by a board-certified allergist to discuss their diagnosis and treatment options.

What are common stinging insects in Northern Virginia?

There are many stinging insects in Northern Virginia. Some of the common ones that cause allergic reactions are the following:

  • Honey bees
  • Yellow hornets
  • White faced hornets
  • Wasps
  • Yellow jackets

What does a bee or wasp sting reaction in non-allergic individuals appear as?

The insect injects venom under the skin, causing a local inflammatory reaction often with sensations of mild pain, swelling, itching, and redness. A local reaction such as this typically resolves in around a week. Applying ice to the affected area can help to relieve swelling. Additionally, over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl, can limit itching sensations. If the area appears infected with symptoms including but not limited to drainage of the affected area or fever, it is important to seek medical treatment.

What does a bee or wasp sting reaction appear as in a highly-allergic individual?

Individuals who are more allergic to the venom of the insect may develop generalized symptoms that require immediate care to treat. Individuals who suspect themselves of having been stung by a wasp or bee and encounter worrying symptoms should immediately reach out to a healthcare professional for guidance. In the most severe cases, it may be necessary to call an ambulance.

If I am allergic to bee venom, does that mean I am allergic to wasp venom?

Bee and wasp venom are different and contain distinct allergens (which cause the irritation). Individuals allergic to wasp venom are rarely allergic to bee venom.

How is a venom allergy diagnosed?

Venom allergy is diagnosed based on a history of allergic reaction and a test for venom-specific antibodies.

How are venom allergies managed?

Management depends on the severity and location of the allergic reaction and may change with time. Oral antihistamines may be appropriate for local reactions. Generalized allergic reactions may also require oral antihistamines or injected medications. Severe reactions may be treated with adrenaline followed by additional medications. After an allergic reaction, individuals should be seen by a board-certified allergist who can help them manage their continued care.

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