What does a bug bite or sting do to someone who is allergic?

An insect sting allergy may cause a large area of swelling (edema) at the sting site. It also can cause itching or hives all over your body, cough, chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath or anaphylaxis.

If you've ever been the target of a yellow jacket or bee, you'll know there's often more to a sting than the initial pain. Your body responds with swelling, event site pain, and itching. Applying ice and a bit of disinfectant, however, usually helps to ease swelling and suffering.

But for five percent of the population an encounter with a stinger or a bite can be life threatening because they're allergic to the insect's venom. Symptoms of an allergic reaction range from hives, itching, or body swelling to tightness and swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, a sudden drop in blood pressure, dizziness, unconsciousness, and potentially even cardiac arrest. The reaction generally occurs within minutes of the sting or bite.

If you're allergic to stings or bites, let other people know and be prepared to self-inject epinephrine. Your doctor can issue you an emergency injector to keep with you.

Continue Learning about Allergies

Could You Be Allergic to Your Antibiotics?
Could You Be Allergic to Your Antibiotics?
When baboons make the cover of National Geographic magazine, the centerfold usually has at least one picture of a female baboon’s big red bottom. And ...
Read More
What does an aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) center do?
Tanya M. Laidlaw, MDTanya M. Laidlaw, MD
A team of allergists and otolaryngology specialists work together at Brigham and Women's aspirin-exa...
More Answers
What is sensitization to an allergen?
Anthony L. Komaroff, MDAnthony L. Komaroff, MD
The first time you are stung by a bee, you'll have a normal response: It hurts. If you have a be...
More Answers
What are allergies?
Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhDDr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Allergies occur as a result of your immune system overreacting to a foreign substance. In an effort ...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.