Diagnosis and treatment of Hymenoptera venom allergy: S2k Guideline of the German Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (DGAKI) in collaboration with the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Berufs- und Umweltdermatologie e.V. (ABD), the Medical Association of German Allergologists (AeDA), the German Society of Dermatology (DDG), the German Society of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery (DGHNOKC), the German Society of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGKJ), the Society for Pediatric Allergy and Environmental Medicine (GPA), German Respiratory Society (DGP), and the Austrian Society for Allergy and Immunology (ÖGAI)

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


  • Franziska Ruëff - , Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich (Author)
  • Andrea Bauer - , Department of Dermatology (Author)
  • Sven Becker - , University Hospital Tübingen (Author)
  • Randolf Brehler - , University Hospital Münster (Author)
  • Knut Brockow - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Adam M Chaker - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Ulf Darsow - , Technical University of Munich (Author)
  • Jörg Fischer - , University Hospital for Dermatology and Allergology (Author)
  • Thomas Fuchs - , University Medical Center Göttingen (Author)
  • Michael Gerstlauer - , University Hospital Augsburg (Author)
  • Sunhild Gernert - , GFO Hospitals Bonn (Author)
  • Eckard Hamelmann - , Bielefeld University (Author)
  • Wolfram Hötzenecker - , Kepler University Hospital (Author)
  • Ludger Klimek - , Center for Rhinology and Allergology Wiesbaden (Author)
  • Lars Lange - , GFO Hospitals Bonn (Author)
  • Hans Merk - , University Hospital Aachen (Author)
  • Norbert K Mülleneisen - , Center for Asthma and Allergy (Author)
  • Irena Neustädter - , Klinik Hallerwiese-Cnopfsche Kinderklinik (Author)
  • Wolfgang Pfützner - , University Hospital Gießen and Marburg (Author)
  • Wolfgang Sieber - , Hospital Wörth an der Donau (Author)
  • Helmut Sitter - , University of Marburg (Author)
  • Christoph Skudlik - , Institute for Interdisciplinary Dermatological Prevention and Rehabilitation (iDerm) (Author)
  • Regina Treudler - , Leipzig University (Author)
  • Bettina Wedi - , Hannover Medical School (MHH) (Author)
  • Stefan Wöhrl - , Floridsdorf Allergy Center (FAZ) (Author)
  • Margitta Worm - , Department of Dermatology (Author)
  • Thilo Jakob - , University Hospital Gießen and Marburg (Author)


Hymenoptera venom (HV) is injected into the skin during a sting by Hymenoptera such as bees or wasps. Some components of HV are potential allergens and can cause large local and/or systemic allergic reactions (SAR) in sensitized individuals. During their lifetime, ~ 3% of the general population will develop SAR following a Hymenoptera sting. This guideline presents the diagnostic and therapeutic approach to SAR following Hymenoptera stings. Symptomatic therapy is usually required after a severe local reaction, but specific diagnosis or allergen immunotherapy (AIT) with HV (VIT) is not necessary. When taking a patient's medical history after SAR, clinicians should discuss possible risk factors for more frequent stings and more severe anaphylactic reactions. The most important risk factors for more severe SAR are mast cell disease and, especially in children, uncontrolled asthma. Therefore, if the SAR extends beyond the skin (according to the Ring and Messmer classification: grade > I), the baseline serum tryptase concentration shall be measured and the skin shall be examined for possible mastocytosis. The medical history should also include questions specific to asthma symptoms. To demonstrate sensitization to HV, allergists shall determine concentrations of specific IgE antibodies (sIgE) to bee and/or vespid venoms, their constituents and other venoms as appropriate. If the results are negative less than 2 weeks after the sting, the tests shall be repeated (at least 4 - 6 weeks after the sting). If only sIgE to the total venom extracts have been determined, if there is double sensitization, or if the results are implausible, allergists shall determine sIgE to the different venom components. Skin testing may be omitted if in-vitro methods have provided a definitive diagnosis. If neither laboratory diagnosis nor skin testing has led to conclusive results, additional cellular testing can be performed. Therapy for HV allergy includes prophylaxis of reexposure, patient self treatment measures (including use of rescue medication) in the event of re-stings, and VIT. Following a grade I SAR and in the absence of other risk factors for repeated sting exposure or more severe anaphylaxis, it is not necessary to prescribe an adrenaline auto-injector (AAI) or to administer VIT. Under certain conditions, VIT can be administered even in the presence of previous grade I anaphylaxis, e.g., if there are additional risk factors or if quality of life would be reduced without VIT. Physicians should be aware of the contraindications to VIT, although they can be overridden in justified individual cases after weighing benefits and risks. The use of β-blockers and ACE inhibitors is not a contraindication to VIT. Patients should be informed about possible interactions. For VIT, the venom extract shall be used that, according to the patient's history and the results of the allergy diagnostics, was the trigger of the disease. If, in the case of double sensitization and an unclear history regarding the trigger, it is not possible to determine the culprit venom even with additional diagnostic procedures, VIT shall be performed with both venom extracts. The standard maintenance dose of VIT is 100 µg HV. In adult patients with bee venom allergy and an increased risk of sting exposure or particularly severe anaphylaxis, a maintenance dose of 200 µg can be considered from the start of VIT. Administration of a non-sedating H1-blocking antihistamine can be considered to reduce side effects. The maintenance dose should be given at 4-weekly intervals during the first year and, following the manufacturer's instructions, every 5 - 6 weeks from the second year, depending on the preparation used; if a depot preparation is used, the interval can be extended to 8 weeks from the third year onwards. If significant recurrent systemic reactions occur during VIT, clinicians shall identify and as possible eliminate co-factors that promote these reactions. If this is not possible or if there are no such co-factors, if prophylactic administration of an H1-blocking antihistamine is not effective, and if a higher dose of VIT has not led to tolerability of VIT, physicians should should consider additional treatment with an anti IgE antibody such as omalizumab as off lable use. For practical reasons, only a small number of patients are able to undergo sting challenge tests to check the success of the therapy, which requires in-hospital monitoring and emergency standby. To perform such a provocation test, patients must have tolerated VIT at the planned maintenance dose. In the event of treatment failure while on treatment with an ACE inhibitor, physicians should consider discontinuing the ACE inhibitor. In the absence of tolerance induction, physicians shall increase the maintenance dose (200 µg to a maximum of 400 µg in adults, maximum of 200 µg HV in children). If increasing the maintenance dose does not provide adequate protection and there are risk factors for a severe anaphylactic reaction, physicians should consider a co-medication based on an anti-IgE antibody (omalizumab; off-label use) during the insect flight season. In patients without specific risk factors, VIT can be discontinued after 3 - 5 years if maintenance therapy has been tolerated without recurrent anaphylactic events. Prolonged or permanent VIT can be considered in patients with mastocytosis, a history of cardiovascular or respiratory arrest due to Hymenoptera sting (severity grade IV), or other specific constellations associated with an increased individual risk of recurrent and/or severe SAR (e.g., hereditary α-tryptasemia). In cases of strongly increased, unavoidable insect exposure, adults may receive VIT until the end of intense contact. The prescription of an AAI can be omitted in patients with a history of SAR grade I and II when the maintenance dose of VIT has been reached and tolerated, provided that there are no additional risk factors. The same holds true once the VIT has been terminated after the regular treatment period. Patients with a history of SAR grade ≥ III reaction, or grade II reaction combined with additional factors that increase the risk of non response or repeated severe sting reactions, should carry an emergency kit, including an AAI, during VIT and after regular termination of the VIT.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-190
Number of pages37
JournalAllergologie select
Publication statusPublished - 2023

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC10580978
ORCID /0000-0002-4411-3088/work/148145489