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Allergy Specialist Of Knoxville

Managing an Insect Allergy

Managing an Insect Allergy

We love the long days of summer, but all that wonderful sunshine means stinging insects are very busy. If you suffer from more than localized redness and swelling after a sting, it can be a stressful time. The most serious reactions can occur from these insects:

  • Yellow jackets
  • Honey bees
  • Paper wasps
  • Hornets
  • Fire ants

While most people have pain, swelling, and redness after a sting, some people have much more serious reactions caused by overreaction of the immune system called anaphylaxis. Symptoms that can be caused include:

  • Swelling of the face, throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea or diarrhea
  • Itchiness and hives over large areas of the body
What you should do:

If there are signs of a severe reaction:

  • If your child has injectable epinephrine (EpiPen), use it immediately, then call 911. Let them know your child is experiencing a life-threatening emergency. If someone is with you, have that person call 911 while you give the epinephrine.
  • If your child is conscious and you don’t have epinephrine, give Benadryl, then call 911 as above.

If there are no signs of a severe reaction:

  • If the insect’s stinger is visible, remove it as quickly as possible by scraping the skin horizontally with the edge of a credit card or your fingernail.
  • Wash the area with soap and water.
  • Apply ice or a cool wet cloth to the area to relieve pain and swelling.
Seek Medical Care


  • Your child was stung near or inside their mouth
  • You know your child has a severe allergy to a stinging or biting insect
  • You used injectable epinephrine (EpiPen)
  • The area starts to look infected.. Signs of infection may include: increasing redness, warmth, swelling, pain, or pus that happens several hours or longer after the sting or bite

To prevent stings, teach kids to avoid:

  • Going without shoes outside
  • Playing in areas where insects are noticed
  • Having soda or other sweetened drinks outside (the sugar will attract insects)

You should see an allergist if you have ever had any of these anaphylactic symptoms to an insect sting or if each time you are stung, your symptoms are worsening. Call us at (865) 588-2753 with any questions or to make an appointment so you can rest a little easier this summer!

References: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (2015). Stinging Insect Allergy. Retrieved from: Steven Dowshen, MD. April 2014., First Aid: Insect Stings and Bites. Retrieved from: