Insect venom allergy

Insect venom allergy is known and feared due to their often dramatic allergic reactions. It is not rare – in Austria, about 3% of the population react to insect venom with general symptoms such as rashes, dizziness, and shortness of breath. About 5% suffer from exaggerated local reactions, consisting of several centimetre-large swellings at the sting site, which can persist for several days. A small swelling and mild pain at the sting site, however, is a normal response to insect venom. However, some individuals develop an immune response to poisonous components. When it comes to the formation of IgE antibodies, this leads to the development of an insect venom allergy. In contrast to other forms of allergies, insect venom allergies are not associated with familial clustering and genetic predisposition, which means that anyone can develop an insect venom allergy if he/she is stung more often. Allergy testing and treatment (or prophylaxis) should be carried out, because the immune system is stimulated with each sting, meaning that the reaction to the following sting may be much stronger. Insect venom allergies are very dangerous, often ending in an allergic shock. Insect allergy sufferers should always carry emergency medications in case of a sting. For moderate to severe reactions, vaccination with the appropriate insect venom is recommended. This is usually very well tolerated and provides almost 100% protection.

Types of reactions to stings

In Europe, only a few insect species are responsible for allergies. The most common allergens are various wasps; much less common is a bee venom allergy. People allergic to bee venom normally often also react to bumblebee venom. Similarly, people with a wasp allergy often also react to hornet stings. Very rarely, horse fly bites can cause systemic allergies. Mosquitos rarely cause aggravated local reactions (swelling greater than 10 cm at the bite site). Bees sting only for defence, mostly in the vicinity of the hive, and people rarely get in the way.  The wasp population increases very rapidly in late summer. Therefore, there is a lack of food at this time of year and wasps visit people to feed on desserts and meat. stings are very common due to this conflict situation.



Stings from Spring to Autumn

Stings from Summer to Autumn

Near beehives

Near food

Near flowers

Near trash

Stings tend to occur on the feet

Stings on the fly

Stinger with venom sac stays in the wound

Stinger usually does not stay in the wound