For most people, an insect sting means a little pain and discomfort. But some people may have trouble breathing or itch and have hives all over their body after being stung. These people are allergic to insect stings. This means that their immune system overreacts to the insect’s venom.
Most allergic insect sting reactions are caused by five kinds of insects:
- Yellow jackets
- Paper wasps
- Fire ants
For people who are very allergic to an insect’s venom, a sting may cause a dangerous allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis).
Signs of anaphylaxis include:
- Itching and hives over a large part of the body
- Swollen throat or tongue
- Trouble breathing
- Stomach cramps
- Nausea or upset stomach
If you are allergic to insect stings, you can reduce your risk of having an allergic reaction by staying indoors during insect season and always carrying autoinjectable epinephrine. You can also talk to your allergist/immunologist about receiving immunotherapy, which can protect you the next time you are stung by an insect.