Stinging Insect Allergy

For most people a “bee sting” will hurt and the area will develop some redness, itching and swelling at the site of the sting. These symptoms may last several minutes up to 7-10 days. Some people are actually allergic to the insect sting and can have life-threatening symptoms, called anaphylaxis, and this requires close medical observation and treatment.

The most common stinging insects in our area that can cause allergic reactions include: yellow jacket, honeybee, wasps, white and yellow faced hornets. If you have had generalized symptoms resulting from a stinging insect contact us at (920) 435-6601 for a stinging insect allergy evaluation by our Board Certified Allergist.

Tips on how to avoid getting stung include:

  • Stay away from the insect’s territory or nests.
  • Hire a professional exterminator to destroy hives and nests around your home.
  • If you encounter stinging insects remain calm and slowly move away, don’t swat at them
  • Avoid wearing bright colored clothing and perfumes when outside.
  • Avoid loose fitting clothes that can trap the insect.
  • Wear closed toe shoes and avoid going barefoot when outside.
  • Be careful when cooking or eating and keep food and drinks covered when outside.
  • Insects are attracted to trash containers, keep them clean and away from your activity.

However stings still happen no matter how careful you are. To help relieve the pain and swelling you should elevate the affected arm or leg and apply ice or a cold compress. You may also use an over the counter product like calamine lotion or a topical steroid cream and take and oral antihistamine to help relieve the itching. If the swelling progresses or if it appears infected you should see your provider, you may need an antibiotic.

For people who are allergic to stinging insects the body produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin E, also known as IGE. The venom from stinging insects reacts with the IGE and triggers the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause the allergic reaction. For a small number of people a severe venom allergy can be life-threatening.

This allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and may include:

  • Itching or hives over large areas of the body
  • Swelling of the throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach cramps along with nausea or diarrhea
  • A drop in blood pressure resulting with shock leading to loss of consciousness and death if not treated.

It can be very difficult to identify or distinguish between the different stinging insects. Venom testing is the best method to determine what insect caused your allergic reaction. For people who are allergic to stinging insects, venom immunotherapy is the closest thing to a “cure” for allergic reactions to stinging insects. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), venom injections are shown to be 97% effective in preventing future allergic reactions. However, it is further suggested that anyone who has had an anaphylactic reaction to stinging insects should carry and know how to use an Epi-Pen, which is a self-injectable epinephrine used for emergency treatment.

Venom allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be the therapy of choice for stinging insect allergy. Venom immunotherapy is a series of injections given over a period of 5 years or longer.This process works similar to vaccines; it decreases your sensitivity to the venom by injecting increasing amounts of the venom over a period of time.

If you need an appointment for further evaluation for possible stinging insect allergy, contact our office at (920) 435-6601 and we will schedule an appointment for you to see our Board Certified Allergist.