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What You Should Know About Stinging Insect Allergy This Summer

While stinging insects may be a minor annoyance to some, for others they can lead to serious, life-threatening allergic reactions. Thousands enter emergency rooms each year and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions occur in 0.4%-0.8% of children and 3% of adults. Anaphylaxis resulting from insect stings claims at least 90-100 lives each year.

Learn more about insect sting allergy, including symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent getting stung.

What Are Common Symptoms of Insect Sting Allergy?

Insect stings can cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Redness
  • Swelling (near the sting and beyond)
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Hives

Serious allergic reactions require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of a potentially severe allergic reaction to an insect sting may include:

  • Hives, itching, and swelling beyond the site of the sting
  • Intense nausea or diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal cramping
  • Swelling of the tongue or throat and difficulty swallowing
  • Anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening reaction that impairs breathing and causes the body to go into shock

Severe reactions can occur within minutes after a sting. Those who experience an allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if they are stung again.

How Is Insect Allergy Diagnosed?

If you’re concerned about having an insect sting allergy, your allergist can diagnose the allergy and offer a treatment plan.

An allergist can test for the following five insects:

  • Fire ant
  • Honey bee
  • White-faced hornet and yellow-faced hornet
  • Yellow jacket
  • Paper wasp

After reviewing your medical history, an allergist will ask questions about previous insect stings, any reactions to stings, and what additional symptoms you experienced. A skin-prick test or a blood test can help diagnosis an allergy.

How Do You Manage & Treat Insect Allergy?

There is a two-step approach for managing and treating insect allergy:

  1. As soon as a reaction occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
  2. Preventive treatments can help prevent future allergic reactions.

Medical Attention

Don’t delay when a reaction occurs. Medical attention may include epinephrine, antihistamines, and in some cases, oxygen, intravenous fluids, and corticosteroids. If you have a known history of insect allergy, injectable epinephrine should be carried with you and call 911 if epinephrine is used.

Preventive Treatments

Venom immunotherapy is a highly effective therapy administered by an allergist that helps to retrain your immune system to become tolerant to insect venoms and thereby prevent future life-threatening reactions to insect stings. This is accomplished by gradually administering very small doses of the culprit insect venom to decrease sensitivity to the venom. While there is no cure for allergies to insect venoms, immunotherapy is the closest thing to it because it substantially decreases the likelihood that a life-threatening allergic reaction will occur to future insect stings.

How Can I Prevent Insect Stings?

The best way to prevent stings is to avoid bees, fire ants, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets during the summer. Try not to look or smell like a flower when spending time outdoors. Some experts think khaki and gray colored fabrics and abstaining from perfumes or other scented personal use items will help you avoid getting stung.  Always use caution around areas where yellow jacket nests are in the ground or hornet and wasp nest found in trees, bushes, or on buildings.

In addition, use the following precautions:

  • Avoid being barefoot in the grass
  • Do not leave open beverage cans unattended
  • Keep food covered outdoors
  • Seal garbage cans
  • Repair door and window screens
  • Keep epinephrine on you at all times if you are allergic to stinging insects

Are you ready for summer? Stop by one of our Four Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida Clinics if you’re concerned about insect allergies and discuss those concerns with a board-certified allergist today. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help ensure a fun and safe summer.

 

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