Insect Venom Allergies
Stings from insects like honey bees, bumble bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, and fire ants are undeniably painful. After the initial shock of pain, most people develop residual swelling, redness, and itching that usually last for 2-5 days. However, some individuals are allergic to certain insect venoms, and a sting can cause their immune systems to overreact and release antibodies. Essentially, during an allergic reaction, the immune system incorrectly perceives a normally innocuous substance as an “invader” and produces antibodies in an effort to protect the body. These antibodies circulate in the bloodstream and stimulate the cells to release histamine, which can elicit inflammatory responses, such as hives or a runny nose.
If you’ve experienced an allergic reaction to an insect sting in the past, you have about a 60 percent chance of having a similar or more serious reaction if you are stung again. Therefore, if you suspect that you might have a venom allergy, it’s important to obtain an accurate diagnosis and protect yourself against potential exposure. This is imperative because, in addition to annoying sneezing and sniffling, allergies can sometimes trigger a life-threatening response called anaphylaxis, during which the mouth and throat can swell to the point that the airways are impeded.
The warning signs of an allergic reaction can occur within minutes of a sting and result in unconsciousness (anaphylaxis) in less than 10 minutes. Immediate action can save a life, so you should seek emergency medical care if you or someone around you has any of the following symptoms:
- Breathing problems
- Swallowing difficulties
- Hives, or raised, red welts that spread beyond the sting site
- Swelling in the face, mouth, or throat
- Tightness in the throat or chest
- A rapid pulse
- A sharp drop in blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
If you’ve been diagnosed with an allergy to insect venom, your physician might prescribe an antihistamine like epinephrine and instruct you to carry it with you at all times. In the event of a sting, you can inject this medication into your outer thigh as you await emergency medical treatment.
For further information about insect venom allergies, please feel free to contact or visit the South Tampa Immediate Care walk-in clinic.