Insect bites and stings

A number of insects, including bees, spiders, fleas, hornets, wasps, and mosquitoes can bite or sting. Some bites and stings cause itching; others cause pain. The itching and pain occur because the insect has injected venom or another irritating substance into your skin, which causes an allergic reaction. In most cases, this reaction is bothersome but not dangerous. However, a severe reaction can cause anaphylaxis, resulting in shortness of breath and tightening of your throat. Anaphylaxis can be fatal, even on the first reaction. Severe reactions can affect the whole body and may occur in minutes. This is a medical emergency and you should call 9-1-1. Another type of allergic reaction is called angioedema, which involves swelling throughout your body, especially the face, lips, and around the eyes. More people have allergic reactions to stinging insects than to biting insects.

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Review Date: 2/4/2016  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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