Insect Sting Allergy Drugs

Written by the Healthline Editorial Staff & Julie Roddick | Published on September 8, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on September 8, 2014

Insect Sting Allergy Drugs

If you have an allergic reaction to an insect sting, there are a few options for treatment. Your options depend upon whether your allergic reaction is mild or severe. Severe allergic reactions are a medical emergency, and require immediate treatment and medical care.

Mild Allergy Treatment

Antihistamines are the first-line treatments for insect stings. They can help reduce swelling, itching, and hives. First-generation antihistamines are the easiest to find, but for some people they cause drowsiness. First-generation antihistamines include:

  • brompheniramine (Dimetapp)
  • dimenhydrinate (Dramamine)
  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl, Sominex)
  • doxylamine (Vicks Nyquil)

The side effects, especially the drowsiness, of first-generation antihistamines are not normally desirable for the treatment of allergy symptoms. More recently, antihistamines, which have fewer or no such side effects and are non-sedating are available over the counter and recommended by many doctors. Over-the-counter antihistamines include:

  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • chlorpheniramine
  • loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)
  • cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • desloratadine (Clarinex)
  • fexofenadine (Allegra)
  • levocetirizine (Xyzal)
  • loratadine (Alavert, Claritin)

Severe Allergy Treatments

Epinephrine

Epinephrine is a hormone that increases heart rate, contracts blood vessels, and opens air passages. It’s more commonly known as adrenaline. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, epinephrine is the primary treatment for an emergency allergic reaction like anaphylaxis. Anyone with a known insect sting allergy should carry an autoinjection epinephrine kit whenever going anywhere in nature. An epinephrine autoinjector is a combined needle and syringe that makes it easy to deliver a single dose of the medication. Three common brands of auto-injection epinephrine are Anapen, EpiPen, and Twinject.

It’s important to remember that epinephrine is a rescue medication only. Its effects are relatively short lived, and, in most cases, further therapy is necessary to prevent recurrence of the life-threatening condition. According to Mayo Clinic, anyone who suffers an anaphylactic reaction to an insect sting should be taken to see a medical professional immediately, whether they have been given a dose of epinephrine or not.

Steroids

A severe reaction may also require a course of oral or injected corticosteroids under the guidance of a medical professional. 

Recovery

Whether mild or severe, you can recover fully from insect sting allergic reactions with the proper medication. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about drugs for insect sting allergies.

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