Allergy Medicine

Insect or Bee Sting allergies

Introduction to Insect or Bee Sting allergies

Insect stings usually cause a small local skin reaction which can last up to a few days. In some cases, allergic reaction may take place.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What are Insect or Bee Sting allergies?

An insect stings when it is agitated or to defend itself. Common stinging insects in the UK include wasps, bees and hornets. In most cases, insect stings usually cause a small local skin reaction which can last up to a few days. In some cases, allergic reaction may take place. Allergic reactions can be classified into localized and systemic allergic reaction, of which the latter is rare but serious.

What causes Insect or Bee Sting allergies?

A skin reaction is present in most insect sting cases.

An allergic reaction, most common in wasp stings, requires the sensitisation of your immune system so you are unlikely to experience this kind of reaction after a first sting.

Wasps and hornets could sting you again as they don’t leave the sting behind. Therefore, walk away calmly after the first sting to avoid further stings.

What are the symptoms of Insect or Bee Sting allergies?

A sting contains venom which will cause skin to become swollen, itchy and leave a red mark. The affected area may be painful. Unlike wasps and hornets, a bee sting will leave a venomous sac in the wound which needs to be removed by scraping it out using something with a hard edge, such as a card. Pinching the sting with fingers may spread the venom. Plucking a sting squeezes venom into the skin. Instead, scrape it off.

Rarely, some people may experience serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) which requires immediate medical attention. Anaphylaxis is more likely if you have been bitten or stung before and become sensitized. Symptoms include wheezing, nausea, swollen face or mouth, anxiety and a fast heart rate.

How are Insect or Bee Sting allergies treated?

As most insect stings are small reactions localised to that area, they can be treated at home by washing with soap and water. Cold compress can be used to reduce swelling. It is important to keep in mind that scratching the area will cause infection. Painkillers like paracetamol can be taken in painful cases to help relieve the discomfort. Antihistamine can also be used to reduce swelling in the affected part. If symptom persists, your GP may prescribe oral corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medicine) for a few days. If you suspect an allergic reaction, call an ambulance immediately.

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