What is sensitization to an allergen?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
The first time you are stung by a bee, you'll have a normal response: It hurts. If you have a bee venom allergy, the sting also provokes B cells to produce Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against the bee venom. The IgE antibodies stick to immune cells called mast cells, and the duos roam the body in readiness for the next exposure to bee venom. This process is called sensitization.

The next time a bee stings, the IgEs on the mast cells stick to the bee venom, prompting the mast cells to release histamines that trigger inflammation and allergic symptoms.

Continue Learning about Allergies



About one out of five Americans suffers from allergies. An allergy is an exaggerated response from the immune system to a substance such as dust, pollen, pet dander or mold. Other common triggers include foods such as peanuts and ...

milk; insect bites; and certain ingredients in cosmetics and jewelry. Allergies can cause anything from rashes and hives to itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, and wheezing.

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.