Insect Sting Allergy
Insects most commonly implicated in allergic reactions include Honey Bee, Wasp, Yellow jacket, Hornets and Fire Ant. Reactions to insect stings are usually in response to the venom that is received from the insect. While this may be a minor annoyance that heals within a few days for most people, there are some people who are severely allergic to the venom. People who are allergic to insect stings may have a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis which requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of Insect Sting Allergy
Symptoms can be local (confined to the area of sting) or systemic (generalized symptoms). Local reactions may include:
Patients experiencing systemic or severe allergic reactions, which may include the following symptoms, should seek immediate medical help:
- Hives, flushing and itching all over
- Abnormal swelling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Anaphylactic shock and death
Diagnosis of Insect Sting Allergy
The diagnosis of insect sting allergy is made by a combination of history, skin testing with venom and blood tests.
Treatment of Insect Sting Reactions
If the allergic reaction is not a medical emergency, the general steps to take in caring for an insect sting may include:
- Removing a stinger if it is present
- Cleansing the area of the bite or sting with soap and water
- Icing the area to bring down swelling
- If needed, taking an antihistamine to reduce itching
- Steroid medications may be prescribed to bring down the inflammation and swelling
Patients experiencing systemic symptoms or severe reactions, should seek immediate medical attention. They may require epinephrine injection and close monitoring.
Prevention of Insect Sting Reactions
Prevention of future reactions involves the following:
- Patients allergic to insect stings should avoid high-risk areas such as yards, picnic areas where food and drinks are exposed, and trash containers.
- They should carry epinephrine kits with them at all times. This should be used immediately in case of a severe reaction from an inadvertent insect sting.
- Venom immunotherapy or allergy shots: This helps to increase tolerance to the insect venom to which a person is allergic. As a result, subsequent accidental insect stings do not produce severe, life-threatening allergic reactions.