Insect sting allergy

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Insect sting allergy is the term commonly given to the allergic response of an animal in response to the bite or sting of an insect.[1] Typically, insects which generate allergic responses are either stinging insects (wasps, bees, hornets and ants [2]) or biting insects (mosquitoes, ticks). Stinging insects inject venom into their victims, whilst biting insects normally introduce anti-coagulants into their victims.

The great majority of insect allergic animals just have a simple allergic response – a reaction local to the sting site which appears as just a swelling arising from the release of histamine and other chemicals from the body tissues near to the sting site. The swelling, if allergic, can be helped by the provision of an anti-histamine ointment as well as an ice pack. This is the typical response for all biting insects and many people have this common reaction.

Mosquito allergy may result in a collection of symptoms called skeeter syndrome that occur after a bite. This syndrome may be mistaken for an infection such as cellulitis.

In anaphylactic patients the response is more aggressive leading to a systemic reaction where the response progresses from the sting site around the whole body. This is potentially something very serious and can lead to anaphylaxis, which is potentially life-threatening.[3][4]


The majority of individuals who receive a sting from an insect experience local reactions. It is estimated that 5-10% of individuals will experience a generalized systemic reaction that can involve symptoms ranging from hives to wheezing and even anaphylaxis.[1] In the United States approximately 40 people die each year from anaphylaxis due to stinging insect allergy. Potentially life-threatening reactions occur in 3% of adults and 0.4–0.8% of children.[5]


A 2012 meta-analysis found that venom immunotherapy is an effective prophylactic treatment against insect bite and sting allergic reactions, and significantly improves the quality of life of people affected by severe insect allergies.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Visitsunthorn, Nualanong; Kijmassuwan, Teera; Visitsunthorn, Kittipos; Pacharn, Panchama; Jirapongsananuruk, Orathai (June 2017). "Clinical Characteristics of Allergy to Hymenoptera Stings". Pediatric Emergency Care. Publish Ahead of Print: 1. doi:10.1097/PEC.0000000000001200. ISSN 0749-5161. PMID 28614101.
  2. ^ Zamith-Miranda, Daniel; Fox, Eduardo G. P.; Monteiro, Ana Paula; Gama, Diogo; Poublan, Luiz E.; de Araujo, Almair Ferreira; Araujo, Maria F. C.; Atella, Georgia C.; Machado, Ednildo A. (December 2018). "The allergic response mediated by fire ant venom proteins". Scientific Reports. 8 (1): 14427. Bibcode:2018NatSR...814427Z. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-32327-z. ISSN 2045-2322. PMC 6158280. PMID 30258210.
  3. ^ Prahlow, Joseph; Barnard, Jeffrey (1998-06-01). "Fatal Anaphylaxis Due to Fire Ant Stings". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. 19 (2): 137–142. doi:10.1097/00000433-199806000-00007. ISSN 0195-7910. PMID 9662108.
  4. ^ Riches, Karen J.; Gillis, David; James, Ross A. (2002). "An autopsy approach to bee sting-related deaths". Pathology. 34 (3): 257–262. doi:10.1080/00313020220131327. PMID 12109787.
  5. ^ Golden DBK. Epidemiology of allergy to insect venoms and stings. Allergy Proc 1989;10:103-7
  6. ^ Boyle, Robert J; Elremeli, Mariam; Hockenhull, Juliet; Cherry, Mary Gemma; Bulsara, Max K; Daniels, Michael; Oude Elberink, J.N.G. (2012-10-17). "Venom immunotherapy for preventing allergic reactions to insect stings". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10: CD008838. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008838.pub2. ISSN 1465-1858. PMID 23076950.
  • Golden DBK. Epidemiology of allergy to insect venoms and stings. Allergy Proc 1989;10:103-7