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Insect Sting Allergy (Ant, Wasp or Bee Stings): Treatment

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This information was reviewed and approved by Kanao Otsu, MD, MPH (4/1/2019).

There are different treatments for bee stings, wasp stings and other insect bites based on the type of reaction you have. 

Local Reaction Without a History of Sting Allergy

Take aspirin for pain, and use ice to reduce swelling.


History of Large Local Allergic Reactions to Insect Stings

  • Take an oral antihistamine (preferably one that is non-sedating).

  • If your doctor suggests, take a single dose of oral steroids soon after the sting.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace stating that you (or your child) are allergic to bee stings, wasp stings or yellow jacket stings.

  • Carry an emergency pack at all times. Keep the emergency pack stocked with: antihistamine (liquid or chewable tablet); an epinephrine injection device (if prescribed); a rescue inhaler if you have asthma; and an action plan card that describes the treatment steps to take and the importance of calling 911 or going to the closest medical facility once the medication is given.

  • Take allergy shots to prevent future insect sting reactions. After reaching maintenance doses of immunotherapy, 95 percent of insect venom-treated people are able to tolerate single stings, and sting reactions that occur are generally milder. Adults who have a positive venom skin test generally are considered candidates for specific-venom allergy shots (immunotherapy). Children with skin symptoms alone have only a 10 percent risk of systemic allergic reactions and aren't considered candidates for skin testing or immunotherapy. Nonetheless, children with more severe or life-threatening reactions are candidates for venom immunotherapy.

These measures are part of an Insect Sting Action Plan to prevent exposure to insects and treat an insect sting once it occurs.

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