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Allergy: Insect Sting (cont.)

When should I seek medical care for an insect sting?

Mild localized itching, swelling, or discomfort requires a call your health care provider for advice.

Worsening of local symptoms over a few days may be evidence of infection at the sting site. Pain, increased swelling and redness, and warmth suggest an infection. Call your health care provider for an appointment the same day.

If you had a reaction in the past, even if you used an epinephrine injection kit for this sting, go immediately to your medical office or hospital emergency department, whichever is closer. Even if you have treated yourself, you still need to be evaluated to make sure that your symptoms are resolving and are not recurring.

Hives or rash or swelling all over your body, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or dizziness or fainting suggest an anaphylactic reaction and require immediate medical attention.

  • If you have these severe symptoms or symptoms over your entire body, you should go to a hospital emergency department.
  • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
  • If no one is available to drive you right away, call 911 for emergency medical transport. If you are able, tell the dispatcher that you are having a reaction to a sting.
  • While waiting for the ambulance, take self-treatment measures.

What are exams and tests for insect sting allergies?

One or more prior severe reactions to an insect sting place you at an increased risk of severe reactions with each sting.

  • It is important to let the health care provider know that you have been stung and whether you have had reactions in the past.
  • Be prepared to tell the health care provider all of the medications you have taken for the sting, both prescription and over-the-counter. Don't forget any herbal preparations or other treatments you may have taken.
  • Physical examination is the most important part of the evaluation of insect stings.
  • Your blood pressure and pulse will be checked to make sure you are not in shock.
  • Examination should also include the skin for swelling and hives, the lungs for wheezing, and the upper airway for possible swelling or obstruction.

An ECG or chest X-ray may be helpful but is not needed in every case. Laboratory tests are usually not helpful.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/15/2016
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