Click a letter to see a list of conditions beginning with that letter.
Click 'Topic Index' to return to the index for the current topic.
Click 'Library Index' to return to the listing of all topics.
Insect Stings and Allergic Reactions
Avoiding insect stings may not always be possible. But it's important to know how to
respond if your child has an allergic reaction from an insect sting. This may give you more
peace of mind if there is an emergency.
Insect stings that most commonly cause allergic reactions
Insects that are members of the Hymenoptera family most commonly cause allergic
reactions. These include:
What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction to an insect sting?
children who are stung by an insect have a local reaction at the sting site. The
reaction is brief, with localized redness and swelling followed by pain and itching.
Generally, the reaction lasts only a few hours. But some may last longer.
other children, their immune system reacts abnormally. It causes an allergic reaction
that can spread to other parts of the body. Sometimes this reaction can be
severe reaction is a medical emergency that can happen very quickly. It is called
anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock. It can include severe symptoms such as:
Itching and hives over most of the body
Swelling of the throat and tongue
Trouble breathing and chest tightness
Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea
Quick drop in blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue
Call 911. Immediate medical
care is needed. If your child has an epinephrine auto-injector pen, use it as
Can insect stings be prevented?
Helping your child avoid insect stings is the best preventive measure. Try the following:
Teach your child not to disturb insect nests and mounds.
When outdoors, make sure
children who have severe reactions wear socks, shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved
When outdoors, make sure your child is careful if eating or drinking uncovered
foods or drinks, which can attract insects.
Keep your child from going barefoot. He or she should wear closed-toe shoes when
walking in grassy areas.
When playing outdoors, make sure you and your child watch for insect nests in
trees, shrubs, and flower beds. Other areas in which to be careful include
swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses, and trash containers.
Before letting children play in an area, check for nests. These
can be found in older tree stumps, holes in the ground, and rotting wood. Car
tires used in playgrounds can also contain nests.
If your child is allergic to insect bites, don't let him or her
play outside alone when stinging insects are active. Even a dead insect can sting
if a child step on its stinger to picks it up.
Teach children to walk away slowly from insects. Don't teach
them to swat at insects or run away. This can trigger an attack.
A child with an insect sting allergy should wear a medical
alert bracelet or necklace.
for insect stings
Treatment will depend on your child's symptoms, age, and general
health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
your child has had a serious reaction to an insect sting, make an appointment with an
allergist. An allergist can do skin testing, diagnose the allergy, and figure out the
best form of treatment. In some cases, insect venom allergy shots (immunotherapy) are
Here's how to provide immediate treatment for an allergic reaction that is not
Stay calm. Your composure will help your child remain calm too.
When possible, remove the
stinger right away using a pair of tweezers. Try not to squeeze the stinger. That
could force the venom into the body. But speedy removal is the most important
Call your child's healthcare provider if he or she gets several stings. Or if
hives develop in a part of the body away from the sting itself.
Raise the affected arm or leg. This will help reduce swelling.
Apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. To make an ice
pack, put ice cubes in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a
clean, thin towel or cloth. Nevert put ice or an ice pack directly on the
Clean the area with soap and water.
Apply a topical steroid cream to the sting site to ease itching.
Give your child a dose of an antihistamine taken by mouth (such as
diphenhydramine) to ease itching. If your child has a serious health condition or
takes prescription medicines, check with the healthcare provider before giving the
For children with a history of a severe allergic reaction to a sting, always keep
an emergency treatment kit nearby. The kit should contain life-saving adrenaline
(also known as an epinephrine auto-injector, prescribed by your child's healthcare
provider). Alert your child's school and have an emergency plan and an emergency
kit immediately accessible.
If your child's symptoms get worse, call 911 and seek emergency care.
Online Medical Reviewer:
Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer:
Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer:
Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed:
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.