Stinging Insect Allergies
Many people in our community are enjoying more of the great outdoors. Unfortunately, this will also increase their chances of being stung or bitten by insects. For a great many people, a bee sting or fire ant bite causes only minor discomfort, but for about 5% of the nation's population, very serious or even life-threatening reactions can result. In fact, at least 40 deaths a year can be attributed to the serious reactions caused by insect stings.
Many people do not know they are allergic to insect stings and may not have a serious reaction the first time they are stung. However, when allergies are present, the next sting is about 60% likely to be the same as or worse than the one preceding it. This is because the body makes antibodies called IGE after the first sting, and all subsequent stings react with these antibodies to trigger the release of histamine and other chemical in the body. The result is an allergic reaction.
The most serious allergic reactions are called anaphylaxis and can be fatal. Anaphylaxis can cause hives, throat swelling, and difficulty breathing. Severe cases can result in rapidly falling blood pressure, shock, and organ failure. Insect sting reactions are a serious medical condition and require immediate emergency care and monitoring. For this reason, people who know they are allergic should always carry medications such as Benadryl and an Epi-pen, an emergency dose of epinephrine, for use in emergencies. It is important to note, however, that while these medications may slow the reaction, they are not a "cure" and a victim should still seek medical attention immediately
In addition to avoidance, people with insect allergies may also want to consider undergoing venom immunotherapy to reduce or prevent allergic sting reactions in the future. Like regular allergy injections, venom shots work by gradually desensitizing the patient to the insect venom that causes problems. Ideally, this means that the body's reaction to a sting would be less dramatic and thus less dangerous.
Tips for Avoiding Insect Stings
Adapted from medicinenet.com and allergypreventioncenter.com articles. Some information provided by the AAAAI.