Insect activity, especially bee activity, increases during the spring and summer months in Arizona.  Approximately 0.5% of children and 3% of adults will have a reaction to insect stings. It’s important to be aware of how to avoid these insects and protect yourself.  


The most common symptoms with insect sting allergy are pain, redness, swelling in the area of the sting and spreading beyond the area, flushing, hives or welts, itching, and more severe symptoms of anaphylactic shock.  


Many people have a small, localized area of itching, redness and swelling after a sting. A true allergic reaction involves local reactions which cause swelling and redness that extends beyond the area of the initial sting, hives, chest tightness or shortness of breath, or anaphylaxis. These symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.  Anaphylaxis is the most severe type of reaction, and can be fatal if not treated with epinephrine right away.


Don’t worry – It’s important to know that severe anaphylactic reactions are rare. However, people who have experienced an allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60% chance of similar or worse symptoms if stung again, and should be evaluated by an allergist for further evaluation and treatment.  


After taking a detailed history of the sting and the symptoms and performing any necessary testing, your allergist will recommend the right treatment for you. The most important thing is to have epinephrine auto-injector available if there is a risk of another allergic reaction. There’s also the possibility of doing immunotherapy (allergy shots) for venom to help prevent future allergic reactions.


Avoiding the insect all together is the best treatment. There are many precautions that can be taken to avoid exposure, including: avoiding walking barefoot in the grass, keeping any outdoor food covered at all times, avoid sweet and citrus-scented colognes or perfumes, avoid wearing bright colored clothing, and keeping window and door screens in good repair.


If you’ve had an allergic reaction to an insect sting, it’s important to discuss with your allergist at AAAI to develop the best treatment plan for you!