18. September 2019
Swelling after an insect bite: When should you see a doctor?

Not everyone will require medical treatment if they have swelling of the skin after being stung by an insect. It is only necessary if the person has previously experienced allergic shock after an insect sting.

Paediatric allergy specialists issued this response in reaction to a statement from Bavarian Minister of Health Melanie Huml. Her advice was to see a doctor immediately for further tests if an allergic reaction to wasp or bee venom is suspected. However, Gesellschaft für Pädiatrische Allergologie und Umweltmedizin (Society for Paediatric Allergology and Environmental Medicine – GPA) fears that this advice may cause concern among patients and lead to unnecessary tests.

 

Who should see a doctor

For this reason, GPA has clarified that only people who have already had a severe allergic reaction immediately after an insect bite should be tested for antibodies against insect venom. This is the case, for example, if hives, circulatory problems or shortness of breath occurred right after a sting.

 

Very few people have a severe allergic reaction

The paediatricians claim that even if a person is highly sensitised, it does not mean that there is a risk of allergy. Up to 40% of adults and up to 50% of children have insect venom antibodies, which means they are sensitised. But only around 3.5% experience severe allergic reactions.

 

Severe swelling after an insect sting is therefore not an indication of an insect venom allergy, according to GPA. Only very few patients with severe reactions at the site of the sting will experience allergic shock after subsequent stings. However, severe swelling will usually occur again. The swelling can be reduced with local treatment, for example, with a cold pack.

 

Allergy sufferers must carry emergency medication

Patients who already have experienced a severe allergic reaction must always carry emergency medication with them for treatment until emergency medical services arrive. The emergency kit should also include an adrenaline autoinjector.

 

Author: kf/ktg

 

Sources

Press release: Insect venom allergy – not everyone needs a diagnosis! 28 August 2019 Gesellschaft für Pädiatrische Allergologie und Umweltmedizin e. V. (Society for Paediatric Allergology and Environmental Medicine) (in German)

 

Press release: Huml warns against allergic shock after bee and wasp stings – Bavarian Minister of Health: Emergency kit can save lives. 18 August 2019 Bavarian state government (in German)

 

Press release: Huml warns against allergic shock after bee and wasp stings – Bavarian Minister of Health: Insect allergies can be life threatening – desensitisation is usually successful. 5 August 2018 Bavarian State Ministry of Health and Care

 

 

 

 

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