Ask the Allergist
If I'm Allergic to Yellow Jackets, Will I Also Be Allergic To Wasp Stings?
Approximately 2 million Americans are allergic to the venom of stinging insects. The Hymenoptera species of stinging insects includes honeybees, yellow jackets, white-faced hornets, yellow hornets, and wasps. If you have a confirmed allergy to yellow jackets, there is a chance that you may be allergic to wasps or other Hymenoptera species. On the other hand, you may only be allergic to yellow jackets.
The most reliable way to know which insect sting you are allergic to is from your history and allergy testing. Here are a few things to consider in your case:
- Have you had skin testing by a board-certified allergist for different Hymenoptera venoms? If not, that would be the best place to start.
- People can test positive to different species without known exposure or history of an allergic reaction. This is the result of cross-reactivity to these various venoms. Cross-reactivity is when the proteins in one substance are like the proteins in another.
- Many people show allergic sensitivity to both yellow jackets and hornets. But cross-reactivity between honeybee and other venoms is unusual. For example, patients allergic to wasp venom are rarely allergic to honeybee venom.
Treatment with immunotherapy or allergy shots can benefit many people with a stinging insect allergy. Discuss these options with your healthcare provider. They will prescribe the best treatment for you, based on your medical history.
John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.