Epidemiology of insect venom sensitivity

JAMA. 1989 Jul 14;262(2):240-4.


The prevalence of insect sting reaction and of venom sensitization in adults is unknown. We report the results of intake evaluation of a stratified random sample of a large adult population previously studied for the determinants of atopic disease. In 269 subjects, the prevalence of systemic allergic sting reactions was 3.3% and 26.5% had IgE antibodies to venom demonstrated by skin test or radioallergosorbent test. Asymptomatic sensitization (positive venom skin test) was observed in 15% of subjects with no history of an allergic sting reaction. Positive venom skin tests were more frequent in men, in those with positive skin tests to inhalant allergens, and in subjects aged 20 through 29 years. A positive venom skin test or radioallergosorbent test was more frequent in subjects who had been stung within the previous 3 years (35%) than in those stung more than 3 years before (20%). We conclude that both systemic allergic reactions to insect stings and asymptomatic sensitivity to venom are common and that most affected persons never seek medical advice. The significance of asymptomatic venom sensitization is unknown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Hymenoptera / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology*
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis
  • Insect Bites and Stings / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radioallergosorbent Test / methods
  • Sex Factors
  • Skin Tests
  • Time Factors


  • Immunoglobulin E