If you get stung by a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant, would you know if you had an allergic reaction?
Those are the insect stings that most often trigger allergies. Most people aren’t allergic. By knowing the difference, you can decide if you need to see a doctor.
The severity of symptoms from a sting varies from person to person. But in general:
A normal reaction sets off pain, swelling, and redness around the sting site.
A large local reaction causes swelling that extends beyond the sting site. For example, a person stung on the ankle may have swelling of the entire leg. While it often looks alarming, it's usually no more serious than a normal reaction. Large local reactions peak at about 48 hours and then gradually get better over 5 to 10 days.
The most serious reaction is an allergic one (described below). You'll need to get it treated right away.
A mild allergic reaction may cause one or more of these symptoms at the site of the sting:
- Pimple-like spots
- Mild to moderate swelling
Severe allergic reactions (also called an anaphylactic reaction) are not that common. But when they happen, they're emergencies.
Symptoms can include:
- Trouble breathing
- Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash and spread to areas beyond the sting
- Swelling of the face, throat, or any part of the mouth or tongue
- Wheezing or trouble swallowing
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
Get emergency treatment as soon as possible