Insect Allergy

Patients with an insect sting or bite allergy experience an immune system overreaction to a sting. Upon first sting, the body creates antibodies to fight off the offending venom, often causing a mild allergic reaction. If the same type of insect stings or bites again, the body’s allergic response is typically much more swift and vigorous.


Allergic reactions manifest differently person to person. Symptoms can include:

  • Itching / hives
  • Swelling at the sting site
  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mouth tingling
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is the most severe allergic reaction. It requires immediate emergency medical attention and can be fatal. Symptoms can come on suddenly and rapidly progress. Some symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • Shock with a dramatic drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Tongue swelling
  • Hives
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Cardiac arrest

Even if a person recognizes symptoms of anaphylaxis and successfully administers an epinephrine injection (EpiPen), immediate medical help should still be sought.


The majority of stinging insect allergies result from the following stings:

  • Bees (mostly honey bees)
  • Hornets
  • Wasps
  • Yellow jackets
  • Ants (primarily fire ants)

Biting insects that can cause allergic reactions include:

  • Bed bugs
  • Certain flies
  • Mosquitoes
  • Kissing bugs
  • Fleas

Insect sting allergies are more likely to result in a severe reaction than insect bite allergies.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Frequently, diagnosing an insect allergy does not require any testing. The reaction may be obvious immediately following a sting or bite. Blood testing and skin testing can reveal the allergen if the source of symptoms is unknown.

Mild allergic reactions can be treated with over-the-counter medications, cold compresses, and other at-home measures. Dr. Schulte can help you determine the best way to manage your mild sting or bite reactions.

Patients with significant insect allergy symptoms should consult one of our experienced allergy specialists to receive an emergency treatment plan and determine if immunotherapy (allergy shots) would be a good fit to build immunity to the allergen.

Insect Allergy Facts

  • Over 2 million Americans are allergic to stinging insects.

  • Symptoms of a non-allergic insect sting include redness, swelling and/or itching at the site of the sting.

  • Even 10 to 20 years after having an allergic reaction from an insect sting, the chance of having another reaction continues to be up to 70 percent in adults and 30 percent in children.