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What to Do About Allergic Reaction to Wasp Sting; Anaphylactic Shock

Penelope is retired, but teaches English in Rome. She is a published feature writer, playwright and poet. She loves local Italian customs.

Yellow Jacket Wasp (Vespula Germanica)

Wasp Sting

This article provides suggestions and guides for coping with allergic reaction to wasp sting and anaphylactic shock:

  • How to discover if you are allergic to wasp stings (anaphylactic)
  • Tips how to protect against a wasp sting
  • Suggestions how to cope with living with wasps, if you are allergic
  • What Immunologists do to de-sensitize people who have allergy to wasps or bees.

Allergy to wasp sting is a life threatening condition and it is 'prohibitative' in that from when you are diagnosed 'allergic' and can have anaphylactic shock, you need to take every precaution against the possibility of a sting.

First though, a little about how I discovered I had become allergic to a wasp sting. (Until the sting I'll be telling you about in this article, I had no idea I had an allergy. This is typical of most allergy cases.)

Allergic Reaction

There were bothersome wasps around on that pleasant day in September when I was sitting outside my swimming club pool enjoying a sandwich with my son.

Although I was being careful not to bother them, I hadn't noticed a wasp that had hidden underneath my last morsel - as I put it in my mouth.

The angry wasp naturally stung my lip, (I think in two places) and it hurt as stings do. My son was quick to say I needed an adrenaline injection and bounded off to the reception desk to ask for one whilst I asked if he would pass my robe to me. I remember wishing he would pass me my robe because I was so cold. I quickly felt unbearably colder. I couldn't move as I stared, incapable of movement, at my robe. I exited from this world, as I knew it.

I had gone into an anaphylactic shock - and although helicopters made emergency landings and ambulances arrived and my son had found an adrenaline injection (incredibly the person next to us by the pool had one in her bag) and had kept me alive by breathing into my mouth and keeping my tongue from going down my throat, I was aware of none of this. I came-to in the hospital several hours later.

Yellow Jacket Wasp

Epi Pens and Children

Am I Allergic to Wasp Stings?

If you live in the countryside with flowers and fruits around you, near vineyards, or orchards, if you are a farmer or a horticulturist or gardener, or if you keep bees, then it would be wise to visit an allergy doctor to have tests to discover if you have an allergy to insects, wasps or bees and to discover your tolerance levels.

I am not a doctor and not qualified to discuss the tests here, but your allergy doctor will educate you on the ImmunoCap Rast blood test and more specific IgE component tests for wasp poisoning (ImmunoCAP i208) - and you could be advised to have the tests, or Skin Prick Tests.

Death due to anaphylaxis (from wasp or bee stings) occurs to a several people annually and on average the victim is in their 50's. I've lived around wasps all my life and have been stung by them a few times, but until recently I did not have an allergy to them - I'm in my 60's. In other words, the condition of becoming allergic to wasp stings (and other stinging insects) can develop through life - and the reactions range from mild to life threatening. Some people with mild reactions (children and adults) lose their allergy over time.

There is no way of knowing if you are allergic to wasp stings unless you have tests done.

Did you know?

In the USA - 50 deaths a year are attributed to allergic reactions to insect stings.

People who have experienced an allergic reaction to a sting have 60% chance of experiencing the same or worse reaction, if they are stung again.

How to Treat a Sting on Your Hand

If you're stung on your hand, take your rings off.

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Within 30 seconds gently scrape the venom sack off your skin, or pull it out. Don't squeeze. Then wash with soap and water and apply an antiseptic

Tips How to Protect Against Wasp Stings


A. People who know they have an allergic reaction to wasps and bees should try to avoid being stung as much as possible - so stay away from areas that wasps and bees frequent.

B. Venom Desinsitization Immunotherapy (VIT) is a successful means of treating people with venom allergic reactions. It is also referred to as 'desensitisation'.

C. If you wear spectacles, then you need to swap to contact lenses so that you will always be able to see. (I wasn't wearing my glasses yesterday, for example and I picked up my mobile phone, which had a wasp on it, which could have been lethal.)

Here is a list of precautionary actions to take to help to protect against wasps, in addition to taking the allergy test.

1. don't Encourage wqsps near your home..

  • Keep lids on trash. Don't keep trash cans near the house or garage.
  • Don't have water around pots or basins or water features near your home.
  • Use pest control agents like sprays or coils.
  • Keep fruit-growing pergolas and sweet perfumed flowers and jams away from your windows.
  • If you live among vineyards or on a farm or near orchards then get your home disinfected every summer to prevent wasps building nests in the walls of your home or in your garden or rafters or among the tiles of your roof.
  • Get someone to do your yard work, gardening, hedge trimming and lawn mowing.
  • Cover soda drinks (wasps love to get inside soda cans so best avoid them altogether).

2. Stay away from clover fields and picnic areas.

  • Don't ever go barefoot.
  • If you leave clothing on the ground, carefully shake it, or get someone else to shake it.

3. Don't encourage wasps on your person (body).

  • Avoid wearing pastel colors, or flowery prints on a dark background. Wearing white is safest for insect allergic people.
  • Wear closed shoes outside.
  • Don't wear perfume.
  • Use an insect repellent.
  • Cover your limbs when outside.
  • Don't eat sweets or ice cream outdoors (or sodas).

Allergy to Wasp Sting Poll

How to Live With Wasps

Since my life-and-close-shave-with-death reaction to the last wasp sting I'm having to consider how to live a life that was once comfortable. I live in a farmhouse in Southern Italy with vineyards all around, indeed a pergola under my bedroom window. During the summer we have thousands of wasps everywhere, in fact all of us have been stung by a wasp, or a bee, a few times this year! Until now, it hasn't been much of a problem.

What adjustments will I need to make, to make my life choices possible now - since the first piece of advice is to remove oneself from where wasps live?

During the height of the summer (wasp) season I've always worn sandals (mostly barefoot) and swim wear through the 40° heat. We've enjoyed eating out in the evening under the pergola because it is too hot indoors. I have a fig tree and we have grapes. My companion and I run a small Bed and Breakfast business in Tuscany and dashing out to hang up the sheets and keeping the garden looking great is what my job is. Indeed, everything about my life here puts me in contact with lots of wasps all the time. Will I need to change this way of life? So soon after the sting, the answer is 'yes'.

I can only know after advice and reflection what action really needs to be taken. To be sensible, I'll talk to my local doctor, and the allergy doctor and my closest friends. Meanwhile there are some actions that I can take!

Practical steps to take about living with an allergic reaction to wasp sting.

  • Make an appointment with the allergy doctor for all tests and to learn how to deal with an allergic reaction to wasp sting.
  • Learn how to deal with the threat of anaphylactic shock by keeping a pre-loaded syringe of prescription drug close to hand at all times.
  • Teach family members how to tilt my head back if the tongue goes into the throat, instead of trying to hold the mouth open. (You tilt the head back with your finger under the chin and the tongue falls back into place).
  • Companion/family members must learn CPR in case breathing stops.
  • Wear a Medic Alert bracelet with the details of allergy.
  • Get those contact lenses!

Please leave comments about your experiences with allergy to wasp sting and please, take the poll.

How To Make A Wasp Trap

Immunologist or Allergy Doctors Treat Allergy to Wasp or Bee Sting

Once you have had an allergy test at your local hospital to ascertain which insect you are allergic to and how allergic you are to it, or to multiple types of insect,you will be in the care of the medical profession from then on.

Each person has a different reaction to different insects, so each person is therefore treated (de-sensitized) differently and accordingly. The Immunologists, or Allergy doctors know all about it.

Usually, people who have allergies have weekly, de sensitizing vaccinations which are performed in a hospital under careful supevision. After six months they will have a vaccination every two weeks and so, in a reductive fashion for five years until an annual boost is sufficient. The allergy should then be controlled.

I've had my tests and I've started my vaccinations and I carry an epipen with me at all times (which is an adrenilin injection) that I would have to inject myself, into my thigh the next time i got stung.

I carry cortisone tablets and antihistamines too. Your Immunologist at the hospital will educate you and prescribe and explain exactly how to be prepared, with which medicines and what precautions.

Allergy to wasp sting or bee sting is a life threatening condition and it is 'prohibitive' in that, from when you are diagnosed 'allergic' and can have anaphylactic shock, you need to take every precaution against the possibility of a sting. A sting can kill you if you don't have your adrenalin shot ready at all times.


Halemane Muralikrishna from South India on September 03, 2019:

Wonderful article connecting natural phenomena with people and reminding the moments Ms Penelope Hart. I have taken Honeybee, wasp, mosquito stings and scorpion bite as I live in the village. I have seen people bitten by snake too. Animals and insects have to live with the human without hurting themselves!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on March 15, 2015:

You are so right and so many things do happen to our bodies as we age tillsotitian and we need to stay on top of those changes with regular check ups and with ongoing care. Many thanks for your votes and share.

Mary Craig from New York on March 11, 2015:

What a scary experience for you and your son. One of my sons is allergic

too but not as severely as you. He swells up but taking Benadryl right away helps him. If, however, he was stung in the mouth or throat it could certainly be more serious for him too.

This is an excellent warning to everyone. So many things happen to our bodies as we age...even from ten to twenty.

Voted all but funny, and shared.

manatita44 from london on September 06, 2014:

Wow! A miracle!

Give praise! I pray and wish you the joy of infinite beauty. You seem to be in good hands. Our Lord knows best. Shalom!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 06, 2014:

I'm on a desensitising course, under careful supervision in a university hospital because my allergy is lethal. I go into shock within 50 secs!

I had to move from my farmhouse, yes. The sting changed my whole life! Thank you so much for your sensitive interest. And blessings. Blessings on you too.

I am making progress. It is slow, but my doctor is incredibly careful and present at all times. The ward specialises in weird immunology cases like mine. I'm a very rare case by the way! I should be on two weekly vaccinations by the autumn...

manatita44 from london on September 06, 2014:

Allergy vaccinations? These things are rarely useful.

Here in London we use piriton (chlorophenamine)8mgms orally for pretty mild cases or 10 mgms iv for quick needs; Hydrocortsone 100-200mgms usually 100mgms or a combination of both. Adrenaline can be first and will need to be first for anaphylaxis which by its very nature is life-threatening. Is that what you mean? get the right dose.

If things are that bad then you will need to move. You can appreciate that life is precious, I'm sure. You came here to glorify the Higher Light and so do look after yourself, my dear. Higher blessings.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on September 06, 2014:

It was scary and it continues to be frightening since I've been reacting to the allergy vaccinations every week for more than a year! It's a long battle. Many thanks for your comment. Appreciated.

manatita44 from london on September 05, 2014:

Very informative and useful article. Scary pics. You've covered all the right things and its great to know that people around you acted so quickly. Higher blessings.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on August 29, 2013:

Very very pleased that your son showed no signs of allergy. Now you know what to do if he ever should. Allergies develop through the years.

Thanks for commenting!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 28, 2013:

My son had many bees tings and luckily there was no signs of allergic reactions, an informative hub

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on June 29, 2013:

Yes, this is incredibly important information. Until you're stung and have a reaction, you have no idea of the power and effect the stings may have.

It's good to be informed, so when someone you know turns up and says 'I'm allergic', you know how at risk they are. You can't take it lightly.

Thanks so much for remarking on my article RTalloni, safiq ali patel and Natashalh.


Natasha from Hawaii on June 28, 2013:

I'm pinning this because this is really important information! I remember when you wrote this - I'm actually pretty surprised I didn't comment on or pin it then!

safiq ali patel from United States Of America on June 28, 2013:

Best to keep some wasp spray spray handy in summer when wasps and fly's that bite are most common. Spray wasp killer as soon as you notice a stinging insects.

RTalloni on June 28, 2013:

It is important to keep this topic highlighted to help make people aware. My husband is allergic to yellow jackets (and probably other such stinging insects). When I did some reading on it a few years ago I discovered that though a person may only have a mild reaction the first time, subsequent stings can prove lethal. I'm glad to learn more about the possibilities of help from an immunologist--thanks!

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 04, 2012:

Thanks for your kind caring Om P. I'm so pleased the tips were helpful too.

Om Paramapoonya on October 03, 2012:

OMG I'm so glad you're all right. Hope it will never happen again. I really appreciate these useful tips and interesting info. Thanks so much for sharing this excellent hub.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 02, 2012:

wilderness. Perhaps it is a good idea to have a test if you have asps around - who knows? I was so stunned by my allergy, in every sense.

suzettenaples. Many thanks for your votes and share and comment. Let us hope this hub does save lives.

AliciaC. Thank you for your well wishes, appreciated. I do hope this hub is helpful. The poll seems to be working quite well.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 01, 2012:

I'm so glad that you're alright, GoodLady! What a frightening event this must have been. The information in this hub will be very useful for other people who come into contact with wasps. Good luck as you try to prevent this incident from happening again.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 01, 2012:

Glad to hear you survived the wasp sting. This is an excellent article loaded with great advice and tips on how to deal with wasp stings, allergic reactions, how to avoid them etc. Very comprehensive hub! Thanks for sharing you knowledge with us! This could save a life. Voted up and shared!

Dan Harmon from Boise, Idaho on October 01, 2012:

An incredible and frightening story with your wasp sting. There are few wasps around my home, but lots of bees. I try to control them but there are new nests every year that must be found.

At about your own age, this is something that I should check out. Thanks.

Judi Brown from UK on October 01, 2012:

Terrifying story, couldn't believe it when you let us know last week, it's even more incredible now that I read the whole story - so glad that your son was there and that the woman had the adrenalin in her bag! Never imagined that people can become allergic (and so very badly allergic) to something. Thanks for writing this, it could save a life.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 01, 2012:

LauraGSpeaks. Good questions. I had a lot of chemo a few years ago, perhaps it changed the chemicals in my body. I'll know more after my visit with the specialist and ask those questions to update this hub.

Penelope Hart (author) from Rome, Italy on October 01, 2012:

Just Ask Susan. Yes, I would suggest an allergy test. Of course I would! Thanks so much for your well wishes.

jimmythejock. I would never have thought anything like this could have ever happened and so I never thought to have the test, but your GP will advise you. They might play it down, since it would be an extra cost on the NHS, and I've no idea how expensive it is privately.

denisemai. Really horrendous experience and thank you so much for your concern and for your interesting comment about the soap and for sharing.

LauraGSpeaks from Raleigh, NC on October 01, 2012:

How scary! So sorry you had to go through that experience. Do you think your body had an allergic reaction accumulated from all your previous stings? Meaning over time your body had its fill of wasp venom? I wonder if a person, never previously stung, is suddenly allergic to bee stings.

Denise Mai from Idaho on October 01, 2012:

So frightening what happened to you. This is interesting info. I didn't realize you can develop an allergy later in life. I learned a little tip about keeping bees and wasps away from certain objects at our farmer's market the other day. Wasps and bees take over my bird houses so I call them bee houses. I was told plain Ivory bar soap rubbed around all the crevices will discourage them. I guess they don't like the bitter taste. I'm glad you are better. I'll share this. This is important info.

Jimmy the jock from Scotland on October 01, 2012:

Although there are plenty of wasps around where I live I have been fortunate never to have been stung by one, nor has any of my children which scares me a little because I don't know if any of us are allegic or not. I think I will ask my GP about the skin tests as they say, "Better safe than sorry".....jimmy

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 01, 2012:

I've only ever been stung once by a wasp (Knock on Wood) and that was over 30 years ago now. After following what you've gone through I will most definitely discuss this with my doctor. Thank you for writing this and alerting everyone about it. I hope that you never have to go through this again.

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