Insect bites are usually mild and easy to manage, but some people can develop an allergic reaction to them. This happens because your immune system attacks your own body, reacting to what it thinks is a threat.1
You can be allergic to bites from any insect, but wasp and bee sting allergies are most common.1 If you think you are allergic to insect bites, ask your GP to refer you to a specialist for allergy testing.
The symptoms of insect bite allergies vary depending on how severe the allergy is.
Some of the most common insect bite allergy symptoms are:
- swelling or redness
- sneezing or a runny nose
- watery eyes.1
More serious allergic reactions like anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, swelling in the face or throat, nausea or loss of consciousness.2 If you think you may have anaphylaxis, call 999 right away.
The treatment of insect bite allergies will depend on how severe the allergic reaction is. If you have a mild allergic reaction, your symptoms should get better in a week.2 Talk to a pharmacist about medication like antihistamines or steroid creams that can help manage your symptoms.1
If your symptoms spread to other areas of your body and you feel unwell, contact your GP.1 Symptoms of severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis are always a medical emergency and you should call 999.
It’s best to stay away from areas with lots of insects, try not to eat outdoors and keep your skin covered. You should also try not to swat at insects, as it can make them more likely to attack you.1
It’s also a good idea to carry medical ID to let clinicians know you are allergic to insect bites. These can take the form of cards, bracelets or necklaces.
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar
Review date: April 2023
Next review date: April 2026
Information and support, including a helpline, for anyone with allergies.NHS Inform
Information and support if you live in Scotland, including advice on diet and lifestyle.NHS website
Information about allergies, including symptoms, living with allergies and treatments to manage allergies.
- Insect Venom Allergies: Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2020. Accessed March 22, 2023. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK447108/
- Insect bites and stings. nhs.uk. Published October 19, 2017. Accessed March 22, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/insect-bites-and-stings/
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