Bee stings are a common occurrence if you spend time outdoors. In most cases, allergic reactions are a minor or moderate inconvenience resulting in itchy/watery eyes, runny nose, and even a rash. But sometimes exposure to an allergen results in a serious and potentially deadly reaction known as anaphylaxis.

In fact, insect sting allergies affect 5-7.5% percent of the population[1] and at least 90-100 deaths occur each year in the United States due to insect sting anaphylaxis.[1]

Anaphylaxis can occur immediately or appear up to 12 hours after a sting occurs.[2]  Symptoms occur suddenly and should be addressed quickly. Early symptoms may be minor including runny nose, skin rash, or a “strange feeling”.

More serious symptoms[3] include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hives or swelling
  • Tightness of the throat
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Cardiac arrest

What should you do if you have these symptoms?

Call 911 or local emergency number and use your epinephrine auto injector pen. Do not place a pillow under the person’s head if they are having trouble breathing as this can block their airway. An antihistamine pill, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), isn’t sufficient to treat anaphylaxis because they work too slowly.[4]

If this is the first time you’ve had this reaction it’s vital to follow-up with an allergist who can help identify your triggers and help you manage your condition. Click here to find a VIT Provider in your area.


  1. Ludman, Boyle. (2015). Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy. Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 8, 75-86.
  2. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (February 2018) Types of Allergies: Insect Stings. Retrieved from
  3. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. (January 2018). Anaphylaxis. Retrieved from
  4. Mayo Clinic. (February 2018). First aid Retrieved from