Venomous insects bite or sting people as a way to defend themselves. They inject a poison (venom) into a person through their mouth or stinger, which causes a reaction.
Examples of common venomous bites or stings are those from bees, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets, and fire ants.
When bitten or stung by a venomous insect, a person will feel a sharp pain at the site, followed by redness and swelling of the area affected. A delayed response might include hives, painful joints, fever, and swollen glands.
Some people may have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to the venom that happens very quickly. It causes swelling in the face, breathing difficulty, nausea, abdominal pain, an itchy body rash, and loss of blood pressure and circulation (shock). This is a life-threatening situation and requires immediate emergency medical attention.
Most of the time, venomous bites and stings are just nuisances that can be treated at home with pain relievers, topical ointments (applied to the skin), and antihistamines. Bites from more dangerous insects (such as black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, and scorpions) are rare but life threatening, and must be treated in an emergency room.
For people who have known allergic reactions to bites and stings, carrying epinephrine or some other type of emergency kit with them can be lifesaving.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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