Over the months of July and August, more time is spent outdoors, and this is especially the case for families with young children because of school summer holidays. It is also the time of year when people are more likely to come in to contact with bees and wasps and therefore the possibility of being stung, particularly towards the end of the summer season when wasps and bees are at their most dozy. With this can come a risk of an allergic reaction to venom.

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Venom allergies can trigger an anaphylactic reaction, which is dangerous and life threatening. However, many people may not even know they are allergic to venom until they are stung and then potentially suffer an anaphylactic response.  The capricious and unknown nature of a venom allergy coupled with its potential to cause an anaphylactic response, makes it an important allergy to be aware of.

Anyone can become allergic to bee stings, wasp stings, or other insect bites but those most likely to become bee allergic are beekeepers. Those who work in gardens are also more susceptible to having a reaction to insect bites. However, it is unusual to be allergic to both wasps and bees.

Symptoms of a venom allergy

Localised reactions: Swelling at the site of the insect bite, which can be more than 10 cm in diameter and last for more than 24 hours. The rest of the limb may be involved but no generalised symptoms are present. These reactions are more common in children than in adults.

Mild systemic reactions: These reactions are characterised by skin swelling and hives in an area of skin remote from the insect bite. Children experiencing these reactions are not thought to be significantly at risk of future life-threatening reactions compared to others. However, in older children and adults, such reactions are considered to be a risk factor for a future severe reaction.

Moderate / severe systemic reactions (anaphylaxis)

Any or all of the following symptoms may be present:

  • Swelling of throat and mouth.
  • Difficulty in swallowing or speaking.
  • Difficulty in breathing – due to severe asthma or throat swelling.
  • Hives anywhere on the body, especially large hives.
  • Generalised flushing of the skin.
  • Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Sudden feeling of weakness (drop in blood pressure)
  • Collapse and unconsciousness.

Wasp and bee stings can occasionally cause serious life-threatening allergic reactions so it is important to know the symptoms to look out for and what to do.

Anaphylaxis and venom allergy

Anaphylaxis from venom allergy is a serious condition that requires prompt recognition and treatment. By understanding the symptoms and taking preventive measures, individuals with venom allergies can reduce their risk of experiencing life-threatening reactions.

You may be prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector if there’s an ongoing risk you could develop anaphylaxis.

There are two types of auto-injectors – EpiPen and Jext – that are each slightly different. Instructions are also included on the side of each injector if you forget how to use it or someone else needs to give you the injection.

Remember, early intervention is key to managing anaphylaxis effectively. If you or someone you know is at risk, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance and support.

Wasp and bee sting allergy

Whether you’re an allergy sufferer, a healthcare professional or someone looking to enhance their knowledge, our factsheet provides information to help familiarise yourself with the range of symptoms associated with wasp and bee sting allergies, from mild localised reactions to severe anaphylaxis.

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Anaphylaxis and severe allergic reactions

Learn about the signs, symptoms, and emergency management of anaphylaxis and severe allergic reactions. Discover essential information on how to recognize and respond to these life-threatening conditions swiftly. Explore our resources to equip yourself with the knowledge and confidence to handle emergencies effectively.

Find out more


While it’s not always possible to avoid insect stings or bites entirely, individuals with venom allergies can take steps to reduce their risk of anaphylaxis.

  1. Wear Protective Clothing: When spending time outdoors, especially in areas where insects are common, wear long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes.
  2. Avoid Fragrances: Avoid using scented products like perfumes, lotions, or soaps that may attract insects.
  3. Be Vigilant: Stay alert for signs of insect activity and take precautions to avoid encounters.
  4. Carry Medications: Always carry an epinephrine auto-injector and ensure that it is readily accessible in case of emergency.

Useful Tips

  • Avoidance of stinging insects is important to prevent an allergic reaction, but if a bee or wasps is near try to stay calm and still, gently brush the insect away if it lands on you.
  • Avoid wearing brightly coloured clothing and highly scented perfume and fragrances as this may attract wasps and bees, instead opt for pastel or light clothing that covers exposed areas including hats with a brim to protect the face.
  • Wear gloves and try to cover up exposed body sites with clothing whilst gardening.
  • Be aware, Insect repellents may not work against wasps and bees
  • Wasps and bees are attracted to food and drink, keep uneaten food covered especially when outside and avoid drinking out of cans (beer or soft drinks), as wasps can crawl inside cans where they are not seen until the drinker puts the can to their lips.
  • Wash your hands and face after eating any sticky or sugary foods (especially children) to prevent attracting wasps and bees.
  • Avoiding sitting beside common areas that attract bees and wasps such as refuse bins and flower gardens.
  • Don’t pick up fallen fruit. The side you cannot see may have a wasp in it.
  • Avoid walking barefoot or even in open toed sandals on grass, especially if clover is present.
  • In the car if you are allergic to bees or wasps, drive with the windows up and the air conditioner on.
  • Avoid high risk hobbies such as bee keeping if you are allergic to bees. For beekeepers keep hives away from the house to prevent risk of stinging others in the home.

Stinging Stats – The impact of living with a venom allergy

For most people, a sting will not be serious and will simply cause a bit of pain and discomfort, and some redness and swelling around the sting site. However, for some people, they may develop a reaction to the venom in these stings, which can range from mild to life threatening.

  • Each year there are approximately 10 reported deaths from wasp or bee sting reactions.
  • Wasp stings are twice as likely to cause a fatal reaction due to anaphylaxis compared to bee stings, as wasps can sting multiple times.
  • Allergy UK research conducted in 2021, highlighted that 100% of parents of child living with a venom allergy and 66% of adults avoid social situations because of their allergy.
  • 67% of parents of a child living with a venom allergy said their child feels isolated due to how much their allergies affected their life.
  • 72% of adults and 89% of parents of a child living with a venom allergy feel the allergy is not taken seriously.
  • 78% of adults and 100% of parents of a child living with a venom allergy and have had a severe allergic reaction.

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