Insect Sting Allergies

Insect sting allergies cause systemic reactions

No one likes to be stung by insects, but for people who have insect sting allergies, the venom injected during a sting could prove to be dangerous or even deadly if left untreated. Five insects produce venom that causes the most serious reactions our Austin allergists see in patients: honeybees, hornets, yellow jackets, paper wasps and fire ants.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, approximately 5% of the population has insect sting allergies.

The difference between insect sting allergies and a localized reaction to stings

Most people who are stung by insects experience a localized reaction to the venom rather than a reaction to insect sting allergies. Symptoms include redness, pain and swelling at the sight of the sting. In some cases, a person may experience increased swelling that may last from 48 hours to a week or more. In addition to swelling, a victim of a sting may feel nauseated or even vomit, but this is still not an allergic reaction.

People who have insect sting allergies experience one or more symptoms, in a mild to severe form, including itching, hives, flushed skin and swelling beyond the area of the sting.

If a person experiences more severe symptoms, a reaction known as anaphylaxis, he or she should seek emergency treatment immediately.

  • Hoarseness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swollen tongue and/or difficulty swallowing
  • Abdominal cramps, intense nausea, vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cardiac arrest

Diagnosing allergies to stinging insects

When someone is concerned about insect sting allergies, our Austin allergists and staff work with the patient to take a thorough history, discussing past reactions to insect stings. We may also decide to do allergy skin testing or allergy blood testing to make a diagnosis.

Treating patients with insect sting allergies

Patients who have insect sting allergies should always carry two self-injectable epinephrine devices in case of a sting. Some patients also respond well to allergy shots or immunotherapy, which allow them to prevent reactions in the future.

Our Austin allergists also encourage patients with insect sting allergies to take precautions to avoid insect stings.

  • Wear shoes outdoors at all times.
  • Be cautious in areas near trees, bushes or under roofs and porches because these are ideal places for wasps and hornets.
  • Use caution when approaching areas of mounded earth or walls to avoid yellow jackets.
  • Be wary around picnic areas, garbage, near fallen branches or objects on the ground or in high grass where you cannot see a mound.
  • Do not disturb fire ant mounds or nests – call a professional exterminator.

Our Austin allergists can advise, diagnose and treat patients with insect sting allergies. Contact us for an appointment.

Fall 2015 Allergy Outlook on KXAN

AUSTIN (KXAN) – Fall begins September 23rd, but fall allergens have gotten a head start in Central Texas. Four major types of pollen affect the area during each autumn season. Dr. Douglas Barstow with Austin Allergy and Asthma Associates predicts will be a heightened pollen year for fall elm.


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