Hornet on a hand sting in the skin

Mythbusters: Bee sting allergies also means wasp sting allergies

Myth: If you are allergic to bee stings, you are also allergic to wasp stings.

Result: Busted

If you’ve even been stung by a bee or wasp, you know it hurts. But what you didn’t know, initially, is how your body would react. Venom from bee and wasp stings can cause reactions ranging from mild to severe. In some cases, a sting can induce an anaphylactic reaction, which could be life-threatening, although it is rare.

Will I always have the same reaction to a bee or wasp sting?

How your body reacts to a first-time sting isn’t necessarily indicative of how it’s going to react if you are stung again. It’s common for people to experience a mild reaction to the first-time sting and a more severe reaction to the second one. Although this is not true for everyone. There is always the risk that someone could be severely allergic to bees or wasps, even if they didn’t show symptoms the first time they were stung.

Question mark speech bubble

If I am allergic to bees, am I also allergic to wasps?

The venom in bee stings is different from the venom in wasp stings. Without getting too scientific, let’s just say they don’t share all of the same major allergen components. For example, the component melittin in bee venom may cause a reaction in some people, whereas the component antigen 5 in wasp venom will not. This is good news for the majority of people, however, some people will experience an allergic reaction to both.

What kind of reactions can someone have to a bee or wasp sting?

Within 2-10 minutes of being stung, a person’s body will react. If a person experiences a moderate allergic reaction to a sting, they are 5 to 10 percent more likely to develop a systemic reaction in the future. 

A mild reaction will mainly affect the area of the skin that was punctured and can result in one or all of the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling 
  • Redness
  • Itching

A moderate allergic reaction follows similar symptoms to those of a mild reaction, however, symptoms tend to be more amplified and can take longer to heal. Expect reactions to be one or all of the following:

  • Swelling around sting increases in diameter
  • Severe redness

A severe allergic reaction can spread all over the body, affecting the respiratory system and skin, this is known as anaphylaxis and results in some or all of the following:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Faintness
  • Sweating
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Tightness in chest
  • Swollen throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fainting

Woman's hand holding a unused epinephrine Auto injector

What should I do if I have a reaction to a bee or wasp sting?

Minor symptoms can be treated with oral antihistamines, however people prone to severe allergic reactions should carry emergency medication such as an epinephrine auto-injector. If symptoms persist or worsen, it’s probably best to contact a healthcare provider or go to the emergency room.

How do I reduce my risk of being stung?

In the U.S., stinging insect allergies send 500,000 people to the emergency room annually. Don’t risk it being you or someone in your family. Western Exterminator has licensed stinging insect specialists who can help reduce the risk. Give us a call at 1-888-444-6138 for a free estimate and to learn more about our stinging insect control services.

Want to learn more about insect stings? Check out the top 5 most painful insect stings, here!

Nancy Troyano

Nancy Troyano, Training Manager / Entomologist at Rentokil North America, is responsible for leading and supporting the development and training of Rentokil technicians throughout North America. Nancy works closely with Technical Field Trainers and Line-of-Business Managers to develop and implement a comprehensive training program for new and existing technicians. Nancy joined Rentokil after receiving her PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2009. Follow Nancy on Google+

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