In upstate New York, bees are the most common stinging insects to produce an allergic reaction. In other parts of the U.S., fire ants are also a common stinging insect.
Honeybees, wasps, yellow jacket and hornets inject venom into their victims at the site of the sting. Most people develop a mild reaction to the venom with symptoms such as local pain, itching, redness or swelling. Usually such symptoms last a few hours, but on occasion may last longer.
Some people experience bee sting allergy symptoms, which in some cases are severe and even life threatening. Severe allergic reactions may develop rapidly and can involve more than one organ system. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include: itching and hives over different
parts of the body, difficulty breathing or swallowing, swelling in the throat or tongue, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, stomach cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of consciousness. These symptoms require immediate emergency medical treatment.
Avoiding Insect Stings
To decrease the chance of exposure to stinging insects:
• Wear shoes outdoors at all times.
• Avoid bright colored clothing which attracts insects.
• Wear garments that fit close to the body. Insects can become trapped in loose
• Avoid using scented soaps, cosmetics and perfumes.
• Stay away from insect feeding grounds (flower beds, fields of clover, garbage cans/bin
and orchards with ripe fruit).
• Keep automobile windows closed to keep bees out.
• If it is necessary to dispose of garbage, spray the area first with an effective
• Wasp or hornet nests or beehives noted in the vicinity of the home should be destroyed
by a professional exterminator.
• When eating outdoors be aware that some bees are attracted to food and beverages. Bees often go inside beverage containers left unattended.
Bee Sting Allergy Treatment
If you have experienced a severe reaction to a bee sting, it’s best to be tested to determine the species that caused the reaction. Future stings can be life threatening. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) is available to help prevent severe reactions to future stings.