Allergy to stinging insects

Allergy to stinging insectsMany people are stung by insects. Most of them develop local discomfort, redness and swelling at the site of the sting lasting only a few hours. Sometimes, a large local reaction may develop. However, some people develop a severe allergic reaction when are stung by insects.

Q: What is a severe allergic reaction?
A: Severe allergic reactions to insect stings can involve many body organs and can be life-threatening (such reaction is called anaphylaxis). Individuals developing anaphylaxis have some or most of these symptoms:

  • A red, itchy rash
  • A hoarse voice (or change in voice)
  • Wheezing (whistling sound while breathing)
  • Chest tightness (or difficulty taking full breath)
  • Dizziness (or Passing out)
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping
This is a serious medical condition, and if it happen to yourself or someone with you, you must call an ambulance immediately

Allergy to stinging insectsQ: Which stinging insects cause such severe reactions?
A: Most sting reactions are caused by five types of insects: yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants. The are more than 150 species of mosquitos in North America only, and most reports describe local reactions to them. However, there are some case reports of systemic life-threatening reactions after mosquitos sting.

Q: What should i do immediately if i got stung?
A: If you are stung by a bee or an insect, try to remain calm, and brush these insects or any remaining stinger away from the skin. Then, quietly and immediately leave the area.

Taking the following steps can help in treating LOCAL reactions to insect stings:

  • Elevate the affected arm or leg and apply ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain
  • Gently clean blisters with soap and water to prevent secondary infections; do not break blisters
  • You can get some treatment to relieve itching
  • See your doctor if swelling progresses or if the sting site seems infected
Q: What if i develop a severe reaction (i.e.: more than a local reaction)?
A: If you develop any reaction suggestive of anaphylaxis, you have more than 50-60% chance of developing similar reaction when getting stung again in the future. This translate to a 50-60% risk of death upon further sting. This risk can be reduced to less than 2% by receiving allergy shots made specifically for those insects.
You must also carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenalin) device for emergency administration.
Ask the allergist on the proper way of administering such life-saving treatment.

Allergy to stinging insectsQ: How can i prevent stings from happening?
A: These insects are most likely to sting if their homes are disturbed. So it is important to have hives and nests around your home destroyed. Get an experienced person to do this. If you encounter any flying stinging insects, remain calm and quiet, and move slowly away from them. Many stinging insects are foraging for food, so don't look or smell like a flower—avoid brightly colored clothing and perfume when outdoor in grassy places. Because the smell of food attracts insects, be careful when cooking, eating, or drinking sweet drinks like soda or juice outdoors. Keep food covered until eaten. Wear closed-toe shoes outdoors and avoid going barefoot.

Q: How can i get all those above mentioned treatments?
A: An allergist will be the best physician to investigate the nature of your reaction and to arrange for treatment if you need any.