Insect stings can be deadly, horrifying, and at times icky depending on who you ask. Usually, a person gets stung by an insect only to feel annoyed or in pain, but for those that are allergic to insects, it can mean big trouble. Allergic reactions to insect stings happen when the venom gets into the skin which can cause a reaction.
There are three different reactions to an insect sting. These reactions may vary from person to person as well.
The normal reaction to any sting from an insect such as a bee, wasp, ant or mosquito is itching, swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the actual sting. A large local reaction is when the swelling is not just at the sting, but all the way around it. If one’s elbow is stung, the swelling may extend over the entire arm. It usually goes away in a few days.
The mild allergic reaction is more severe. Besides the normal reaction, you might have spots around the site, moderate swelling, warmth, and itching.
The most severe is the anaphylactic reaction.
This is when one’s throat may begin to swell shut, an itchy rash extends beyond the sting, rapid pulse, wheezing and dizziness.
One thing many people don’t realize is an anaphylactic reaction might not happen when you first get stung. It might not even happen the second time. The first time you are stung the immune system makes an antibody for the first sting. It stores this antibody on cells until the next time it is stung. After this initial sting, there is no more antibody for the insect’s serum. The body cannot fight against this venom so it may react in a severe way. This is very rare.
Prevention of Insect Allergies
There is no way to prevent insect allergy, completely. An allergist can work with you to diagnose the allergen and treat it. There are many different methods to reduce the severity of the reaction. You will usually not be in a location that is free of insects so there is no way to totally prevent the body from reacting, but allergists can help alleviate most symptoms and let you live a normal life with flying bugs. As put by Kathryn Edwards, allergist expert in Princeton & Robbinsville, a test that determines your severe allergies and appropriate shots can definitely aid in controlling your reactions.
Though there is no prevention to insect allergies, there are ways to try to be safe around them. Try to avoid walking barefoot through your grass. Don’t step in flower beds or around bushes. Don’t drink from open beverages outside as insects love to jump inside them. Remain calm when insects hover around you. Never disturb an insect or its nest. Always wear bug spray in humid climates to ward away unwanted insects. Burn citronella candles and have an open flame around you if you are outside in an area with lots of flying insects.
There are different tests many doctors use to diagnose insect allergies. The skin prick test is when a small drop of the possible allergen is placed on the skin. The professional will scratch the skin with a needle through a drop to see if your skin reacts to the allergen. An intradermal skin test is done when the allergen is placed under the skin to see if there is a reaction. A blood test is given at times when the person does not tolerate skin testing. Patch testing helps patients figure out if recurring issues are from insect stings. It does take several days to perform this test. The first visit potential allergens are placed along the back with medical tape. After 48 hours the patient returns to have the patch “read.” The patient then returns after another day to find the final readings.
Elimination of Allergens
Allergy shots provide long term protection if you’re allergic to insects. These shots help build your tolerance so if you’re stung with the venom again, you should be protected. This means that you not only do you not usually have another severe reaction, but it also improves your quality of life to live without fear of the insect. A long term treatment for fire ants is called whole body extract immunotherapy. This means the entire body of the ant instead of just the venom is used. The length this works is usually three to five years. Some people may need to have an epinephrine injector if the allergy is severe enough. You need to carry this at all times to ensure the allergic reaction will not be severe.
The first step in finding out if you have an insect allergy is to contact a doctor. An allergy doctor can help you get on the road to living life without fear of insects and your allergy. They can help determine the best possible way to approach the allergy. You can live a life without fear of an allergic reaction.