In the case of a bee or wasp sting, the insect releases its poison into human skin.There is redness, swelling or itching around the injection site . These skin symptoms are painful, but in most cases they heal quickly. However, there are dangerous exceptions. According to the doctors’ association of immunologists, around 3% of adults in Germany are allergic to insect bites – especially that of wasps, followed by bees. Stings of hornets, bumblebees, mosquitoes and brakes are less likely to cause allergic reactions.

An insect poison allergy can be life-threatening

A single prick can be life-threatening among the 2.5 million people affected. In the case of insect venom allergy, the body’s defense system reacts excessively: after the first bite, a defense mechanism is set in motion, in which numerous antibodies are formed specifically against this poison.

If this gets into the body again when the sting is repeated, the immune system runs amok: it lets the antibodies swarm out in bulk in order to eliminate the comparatively harmless poison. The result is a massive defense and inflammatory reaction that begins a few minutes after the sting and can affect the whole body.


This overreaction ends fatally in around 20 people in Germany every year. Such cases are particularly common in late summer in times of fruit harvesting – the wasps hatched at the end of August / beginning of September are then foraging and thus particularly aggressive.

Since an insect poison allergy can be life-threatening , the victim must be given medical attention very quickly after a bite . In order to be able to react promptly to new insect bites, the doctor will also put together an emergency pharmacy for the patient.

Response to insect bites

The body’s reactions usually start seconds to minutes after the sting . In non-allergic people, there is a small reddened swelling (up to 10 cm in diameter) around the puncture site, which itches and tenses or hurts. This swelling usually resolves within an hour and is completely gone the next day.

Exception: simultaneous stings from many insects (more than 50 in children and 100 in adults) or stings in the head or neck area can be life-threatening even for non-sensitized people.

Allergy species

Insect venom allergy: symptoms

It is typical for allergy sufferers that on the one hand the local changes at the injection site are particularly pronounced (large wheals, extensive reddening) and spread further (severe itching, swelling, burning and redness all over the body, swelling in the neck and face), and on the other hand general complaints occur – as a sign that the entire organism is affected. This includes:

  • Runny nose , watery eyes
  • Nausea until vomiting
  • weakness
  • difficulty in breathing
  • Drowsiness , fainting
  • Dizziness, rapid heartbeat
  • Swallowing disorders, speech disorders
  • Fear or confusion

These are serious warning signs that an emergency situation may develop, an anaphylactic shock. This is characterized by a life-threatening circulatory collapse with a strongly accelerated pulse and threatening loss of consciousness. In the worst case, there is a cardiovascular arrest.

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