Hymenoptera stings are a major cause of anaphylaxis. Various risk factors are discussed in literature. This study aims to investigate potential risk factors for severe sting reactions in wasp (Vespula spp.) and honeybee (Apis mellifera) venom allergic patients and analyses the correlation between diagnostic test results and the severity of the allergic reaction.
480 patients suffering from wasp or honeybee venom allergy were included in this retrospective case series. Only individuals allergic to Vespula spp. but not to other vespids such as Polistes were considered. The severity of their systemic field sting reaction was analysed with regard to the amount of specific IgE antibodies to whole venom extracts and to major allergens of honeybee and/or wasp venom. Furthermore, the following potential risk factors for severe sting reactions were examined: age, sex, latency time, skin symptoms, baseline serum tryptase levels and the concentration of venom inducing a positive intracutaneous test.
The two following indicators for severe systemic sting reactions in honeybee and wasp venom allergic patients have been identified: a short latency time and the absence of skin symptoms. The patient’s age and baseline serum tryptase levels have been found to positively correlate with the grade of the sting reaction only in individuals allergic to wasp venom. No correlation could be found between the degree of sensitisation and the severity of the allergic reaction. Neither the amount of specific IgE antibodies to whole venom extracts nor to major allergens were significantly associated with the severity of the sting reaction.
The clinical history is essential for the allergological workup and therapeutic decision on Hymenoptera venom allergies. A short latency time and the absence of skin symptoms are indicators for severe systemic sting reactions, followed by the patient’s age and baseline serum tryptase levels.