Insect Sting Allergies

According to the ACAAI, approximately 2 million Americans are allergic to insect stings (including yellow jackets, honeybees, wasps, hornets and fire ants).  Insect stings are responsible for more than 500,000 emergency room visits every year and cause at least 50 known deaths each year in America.  People who have had an allergic reaction to a sting have a 60% chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung again.

The severity of an insect sting reaction can vary greatly.  While most of us develop redness and swelling at the site of the sting (which is a normal reaction), some people experience a true allergic reaction.  The symptoms of a severe insect sting allergy, or an anaphylactic reaction, may include one or more of the following symptoms: hives, difficulty breathing, wheezing, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the face or throat, restlessness or anxiety, increased pulse, dizziness or a sudden drop in blood pressure.  This type of reaction can happen within minutes and can be fatal.  Emergency treatment is needed immediately.

People with insect sting allergies should see an allergist.  First, an allergist can determine the type of reaction youve had: normal reaction, large local reaction or allergic reaction.  Then, the allergist can prescribe an EpiPen or     Auvi-Q prescription if needed for an anaphylactic reaction and provide an emergency action plan for future stings.  Finally, the allergist can provide venom immunotherapy that has been shown to be 97 percent effective in preventing future allergic reactions to insect stings.

In the meantime, there are some ways you can decrease your chances of being stung:

  • Wear shoes with socks when outdoors
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when in wooded areas
  • Avoid wearing perfumes
  • Avoid brightly colored clothing
  • Avoid drinking from open soft drink cans (or other sugary open containers)
  • Keep food covered when eating outdoors
  • If you have an allergy to stinging insects avoid being alone for outdoor activities
  • If you have an allergy to stinging insects always have your emergency medications with you and wear a MedicAlert bracelet

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