Insect Sting Allergy: Treatment

Reviewed by David Tinkelman, MD
  • Venom allergy shots (immunotherapy) are highly effective in preventing subsequent sting reactions. After reaching maintenance doses of immunotherapy, 95 percent of venom-treated patients are able to tolerate single stings, and sting reactions that occur are generally milder. Adult patients who have a positive venom skin test generally are considered candidates for specific-venom immunotherapy. Children with skin symptoms alone have only a 10 percent risk of systemic 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.

  • Treatment of local reactions in people without a history of insect sting sensitivity include aspirin for pain and ice to reduce swelling.

  • For those with a history of large local reactions, taking an oral antihistamine(preferably non-sedating) and, in some cases, taking a single dose of oral steroids soon after the sting is recommended.

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace stating that you (or your child) are allergic to insect stings.

  • Be familiar with the potential symptoms of allergic reactions to insect stings. Your family should also be familiar with this information. Ask your healthcare provider to give you a written action plan. If an epinephrine injection device is prescribed, learn when and how to use it. Make sure that all caretakers understand the action plan and how to give the epinephrine and any other medication prescribed for treatment of reactions.

  • Carry an emergency pack at all times. The emergency pack should contain each of the medications needed to treat a sting reaction, such as an epinephrine injection device and an antihistamine in the form of syrup or chewable tablet. If you or your child has asthma, a rescue inhaler should also be kept in the emergency pack. An action plan card indicating the actions to take and the importance of calling 911 or going to the closest medical facility once the medication is given is also helpful.

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