Stinging Insects Stinging Insects
American Academy of Asthma, Allergies and Immunology
Venom from biting insects, such as bees, wasps, hornets or fire ants, sometimes causes painful
allergic swelling around the sting. For a small number of people who are very allergic to
venom, insect stings can be life-threatening.
R E A C T I O N S
Reactions to stinging insects can occur just around the site of the sting (local reaction) or
spread to other parts of the body. It is considered “normal” to have pain, redness, itching and
swelling at the site of the sting. This will disappear within several hours.
The “normal” reaction to a fire ant sting is different. Clear vesicles usually develop within
several hours, followed by a sterile pustule within 24 hours. The reaction occurs in a cluster
or a ring, because a fire ant pivots and stings repeatedly. In addition, fire ants travel in groups
and a child may have numerous stings due to contact with multiple ants.
Larger allergic reactions will often involve almost the entire hand, foot, arm, leg or other area
of the sting. Swelling will peak in 48 hours, but may last as long as 7 to 10 days. Fatigue, a lowgrade
fever and nausea can occur.
Allergic reactions to stings usually do not happen after the first sting. A reaction may take
place after two or more stings that have happened over a long period of time. Therefore, it is
important to look for allergic reactions in children, even if they’ve been stung before and had
A N A P H Y L A X I S
A severe allergic reaction to an insect sting can involve many body organs and may develop
rapidly. This reaction is called anaphylaxis. After an insect bite, symptoms of a severe reaction
include itching and hives over large areas of the body, swelling in the throat or tongue,
difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea. In severe cases, a rapid fall
in blood pressure may result in shock and loss of consciousness.
Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency, and may be fatal. Children who show hoarseness,
difficulty talking, coughing, choking, drooling or throat tightness after an insect sting may be
experiencing anaphylaxis. They need immediate emergency medical treatment.
M E D I C A L T R E A T M E N T S
If a child has anaphylaxis after being stung, he or she needs immediate medical treatment.
Children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening reactions to insect stings should have
a prescription for epinephrine self-injectable.” It works to reverse the symptoms of an
anaphylactic reaction and stops the reaction from getting worse. Epinephrine should be
administered as soon as possible after the symptoms of anaphylaxis appear. Children who
have been prescribed epinephrine must carry it with them at all times.