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As we enter Fall and the weather starts to get cooler, stinging insects can become more aggressive as they try to gather food for the winter, and insect stings become more common.

Types of Insect Stings

People often talk about “bee stings,” but there are three major groups of stinging insects – bees, wasps and hornets (including yellow jackets). Ants are also in this group, but the stinging varieties like fire ants haven’t made it to New England yet.  

Stings can cause a range of reactions, from mild discomfort and inflammation to severe allergies that require immediate medical attention. Understanding the symptoms and knowing how to prevent and manage a bee sting reaction can be life-saving, particularly for those with known allergies. To assist in preventing and treating bee stings, Western Massachusetts Allergy has compiled the following list of tips and strategies.

Symptoms of Insect Stings 

Symptoms of a sting can vary significantly depending on the person and the severity of the reaction. For most people, the immediate reaction to a bee sting includes sharp pain, redness, and swelling around the sting site. These symptoms are usually mild and subside within a few hours.

However, in some individuals, insect stings can trigger more significant reactions, including severe swelling of the area around a sting, hives all over the body, or in the most extreme cases, anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening.  These are all different kinds of allergic reactions. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
  • Hives or rash spreading across the body
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or a sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness

3 Tips to Help Prevent a Sting Reaction

Although stings cannot always be avoided, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of being stung. If you are known to have a sting allergy, it is essential to take extra precautions. The following measures can help prevent stings and reduce the risk of a severe reaction:

1. Avoid Areas with Stinging Insects

The first line of defense against sting reactions is avoidance. Stay clear from beehives and areas where stinging insects congregate, such as flowering plants, garbage, and compost piles. Yellow jackets, in particular, are drawn to apple orchards in the Fall. Be cautious when consuming food or beverages outdoors, as these may attract bees, hornets or wasps. To reduce the risk of being stung, keep outdoor activities to a minimum during times when these insects are most active, which is typically between 10 am and 4 pm.

2. Dress Appropriately

When spending time outdoors, especially in areas where stinging insects are common, wear light-colored and smooth-finished clothing. Avoid floral prints, scents, and hairsprays that may attract bees. Additionally, wear shoes, hats, and gloves to protect exposed skin from being stung when working outdoors. These simple precautions may prevent stings and reduce the risk of a severe reaction.

3. Have an Emergency Action Plan

Having an emergency action plan in place is crucial, especially for individuals known to be allergic to bee stings. This includes carrying an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g. an EpiPen) and understanding how and when to use it. Furthermore, it is crucial to know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis as well as how to get help in case of a severe reaction. Having a sting emergency kit on hand is also a good idea.

Treating a Sting Allergy

If you know or suspect you may have an insect sting allergy, it’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider or allergist to manage your condition. An allergist can help you create an emergency action plan that includes the necessary medication and instructions on how to use it. They can also help you better manage your allergies with an individualized treatment plan.


Epinephrine auto-injectors are the only recommended treatment for anaphylaxis and should be used as soon as symptoms are noticed. Epinephrine is a medication that relaxes the airways and improves blood flow, which can help prevent complications from anaphylaxis. If you are prescribed epinephrine, make sure to carry it with you at all times. You never know when a sting reaction may occur, and having the medication on hand can be life-saving.

Allergen Immunotherapy

For those with a serious sting allergy, allergen immunotherapy may provide long-term protection. Immunotherapy is a treatment that involves the administration of small doses of the allergen to gradually increase your tolerance and reduce the risk of a severe allergic reaction. This must be done under the close supervision of an allergist or healthcare provider. Western Massachusetts Allergy offers allergen immunotherapy as part of an individualized treatment plan.

Receive Expert Help at Western Massachusetts Allergy

While stings can cause a range of reactions, understanding the symptoms and taking steps to prevent and treat bee sting reactions can help ensure your safety. Western Massachusetts Allergy is dedicated to helping individuals manage their allergies effectively. 

We are ready to assist you with a comprehensive approach to preventing and treating bee sting allergies. If you think you might have a bee sting allergy or want to learn more about managing your allergy, we encourage you to book an appointment with us. Don’t let your allergy keep you from enjoying the beauty of the outdoors. Your health and safety is our priority.

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