Who is affected by insect sting allergies

It is not clear how many people are allergic to insect sting venom, because testing is usually not done until after a first allergic reaction. In other words, you may be allergic to an insect sting and not know it because you haven't been stung by that insect yet.

In the United States, around 15% of adults have mild, localized allergic reactions to insect stings.1 More serious, systemic (whole-body) reactions occur in about 3% of adults and less than 1% of children.1

Allergies to insect stings cause around 40 deaths a year in the U.S., usually in adults over the age of 45, although some are young children.2

It is difficult to predict whether you will have allergic reactions to future stings. Once you develop an allergy to an insect's venom, it may become more severe each time you are stung, or you may not have an allergic reaction to the next sting—especially if you received treatment for the first sting allergy. Insect sting allergies may decline or fade over time, particularly in children.

Citations

  1. Moffitt JE, et al. (2004). Stinging insect hypersensitivity: A practice parameter update. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 114(4): 869–886.
  2. Golden DB (2009). Insect allergy. In NF Adkinson Jr et al., eds., Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1005–1017. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.

Last Updated: January 13, 2010

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