Category Archives: insect allergies

What Is The Difference Between A Normal And Allergic Reaction To An Insect Bite/Sting?

Every year, 40 deaths in the United States result from insect stings. This is the result of an allergic reaction to certain insects. Overall, estimates conclude that insect allergies affect around 5% of the American population. While this is a small percentage of the total, it nonetheless is a concern. While few people do not have some sort of physical response to the actions of an insect, some do. The question is, how do you differentiate between a normal and allergic response?

The Trouble with Insects

Everyone has been bitten or stung. In our daily lives, even in urban areas, it is hard to escape. The most common suspects are the usual ones:

    • Ants – most notorious are fire ants
    • Bees – particularly honeybees
    • Wasps
    • Yellow jackets
    • Hornets

No matter who you are, your body will react to the injection of the insect’s venom. This confuses the matter. However, while many of the symptoms are similar, the extent of them may help differentiate between normal and allergic reactions.

Reactions and Insect Bites and Stings

A normal reaction tends to consist of pain and swelling. There may also be redness. However, it is usually confined to a specific area – the actual site of the bite or sting. What is also notably shorter and less severe than an allergic reaction is the duration. If you are not allergic to the insect’s venom, you will be itchy and sore briefly. The symptoms may disappear within minutes or even hours. At most, the site will be itchy for a day or two but not noticeably so.

However, allergic reactions do not adopt the same pattern. You experience redness and swelling, but the extent and duration differ substantially. It will depend upon the specific type of allergic reaction you have. It may fall into one of two categories.

  1. Non-localized: The symptoms will spread beyond the localized area. The swelling will affect the entire limb where the bite or sting occurred. The evidence of the sting will endure for days, peaking within two or three but also capable of lasting for an entire week. You may also experience hives, itchiness and flushing
  2. Systemic Allergic Reaction: This is the most severe type of insect allergy. It will require you seek medical help. You may have the hives, swelling and pain of normal or non-localized bites. However, you will also experience reactions that include:
    • Dizziness and/or a sharp decrease in blood pressure
    • A rough voice, tongue swelling and/or difficulty in swallowing
    • Abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea

What Is The Difference Between A Normal And Allergic Reaction To An Insect Bite/Sting?If not addressed immediately, you may sink into unconsciousness or go into cardiac arrest or anaphylactic shock.These symptoms and the result make allergic reactions very different from those of the average person. If you feel you are at risk, talk to your doctor and consult a specialist.

Treating Allergic Reactions to Insect Stings

If you think allergies to insect stings are uncommon, you should think again. 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings with approximately 50 deaths in a year occurring due to this reason. The most common insects that trigger an allergy if they bite you include hornets, yellow jackets, bees, fire ants, and wasps.
It is important to note that not everyone suffers from allergy due to an insect sting and it could also be a normal skin reaction to a sting that you mistake for an allergic reaction. But once you know you suffer from an insect sting allergy, you will be in a better position to protect yourself.

Symptoms of an Insect Sting

A mild allergic reaction to insect stings has the following symptoms:

Redness or pain in the area
Spotting that looks like pimples
Swelling and itching

Meanwhile, a severe allergic reaction to insect stings is called an anaphylactic reaction and it may cause:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Swelling in the throat, face or mouth tissue
  • Appearance of red itchy rashes on areas other than where the insect stung
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Dizziness

Extreme reactions are uncommon, but can also lead to unconsciousness, cardiac arrest or shock. This kind of reaction is fatal and treatment should be sought as soon as possible.


An allergic reaction to an insect sting can be treated in various ways depending on the severity. If there is swelling, an ice pack can be used on the affected area to subside it. Some over the counter medications are also effective if there is itching but pregnant women should first consult an allergist before taking any over the counter medicine for an allergic reaction to an insect sting.

If an insect bites you on the hand, the first thing to do is to remove any rings that you may be wearing. In case of a bee sting, the stinger must be removed as soon as possible, which stops the venom from spreading further. More severe allergic reactions are treated with an adrenaline known as apinephrine, which is administered by a doctor or can be self injected. This injection stops a severe reaction from spreading.

Prevention Tips

  • Avoid going in an area where there are insect nests.
  • Be fully covered when you step outside
  • Avoid bright colors or perfumes, which tend to attract insects.
  • Install insect screens at home
  • Use an insecticide to spray it on garbage cans and avoid growing insect attracting plants.

Should you or a loved one suffer from an allergic reaction to an insect sting, make sure you consult an allergist to avoid a severe problem. For more information or to book an appointment with one of the leading NYC allergist, contact us today at 212-319-5282.

Serving all of New York City and the Tri State Area including Zip Codes: Top Allergist NYC Midtown, Chelsea and Clinton: 10001, 10011, 10018, 10019, 10020, 10036 | Gramercy Park and Murray Hill: 10010, 10016, 10017, 10022 | Greenwich Village and Soho: 10012, 10013, 10014 | Lower Manhattan: 10004, 10005, 10006, 10007, 10038, 10280 | Lower East Side: 10002, 10003, 10009 | Upper East Side: 10021, 10028, 10044, 10128 | Upper West Side: 10023, 10024, 10025

[wpseo_address oneline="0" show_state="1" show_phone="1" show_email="1"]
[wpseo_map width="500" height="300" zoom="12" map_style="roadmap" scrollable="1" show_route="0" show_state="1" show_url="1"]