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Insect Sting Allergy (Ant, Wasp and Bee Stings): FAQ

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This information was reviewed and approved by Kanao Otsu, MD, MPH (3/31/2019).

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are there ways I can protect myself from getting stung by ants, bees and wasps while outdoors

Answer: Wear protective clothing while outside to reduce exposure to bare skin. For example, wear long pants when hiking or mowing the grass, gloves while gardening, and wear shoes rather than sandals or going barefoot.


Question: What color of clothing is better to prevent getting stung by bees or other insects?

Answer: Wear white or light-colored clothing; dark clothing and clothing with flowery designs are more likely to attract insects. 


Question: Do I need to protect myself from insect stings while I exercise outdoors?

Answer: Yes, insects are attracted to the scent of deodorants and perspiration. Use unscented deodorant, and rinse off perspiration after vigorous exercise. Avoid any strong-smelling perfume, cologne, hair oil, hair spray or lotions because insects may be attracted by the smell. Use insect repellents, and keep insecticide available.


Question: What’s the best way to protect against yellow jacket and other insect stings during a picnic?

Answer: Cover food and drinks at outdoor events as much as possible. The smell of food is a strong attraction for insects. Remember to cover garbage as well.


Question: How long after an insect or wasp sting can an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis occur?

Answer: An allergic reaction may occur immediately or within four hours of an insect sting. A severe allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis, often begins within minutes of the insect sting, but occasionally may begin an hour or so later.


Question: I've had severe reactions to bee and insect stings in the past. What should I do to protect myself and let others know about my condition?

Answer: Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace stating that you are allergic to stings from bees or other insects. Always carry an emergency pack. Talk with your health care provider about what exactly needs to be in the emergency pack. Generally an emergency pack should contain each of the medications needed to treat a bee, wasp or ant sting allergic reaction:

  • Oral antihistamine - syrup or chewable tablet

  • Epinephrine injection device (EpiPen, Auvi-Q)

  • Rescue inhaler and spacer if you have asthma

  • Action plan card listing the actions to take and the importance of calling 911 or going to the closest medical facility once the medication is given.

Review how to take all the medications that are prescribed in your action plan. If an epinephrine injection device is prescribed, review when to use it and ask your health care provider to demonstrate the correct technique. Talk with your family about how they can help you follow your action plan.


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