An allergy to a stinging insect occurs when your immune system overreacts to the venom from an insect sting. Many people confuse the normal redness, swelling and pain caused by an insect sting for an allergy. An allergy to an insect sting is usually more severe than these symptoms and is occasionally life threatening. You can be stung by an insect for the first time and not have an allergic reaction, but when stung a second time have an allergic reaction since your body has created antibodies from the first sting.
The most common stings that cause an allergic reaction are from the below insects:
- Yellow Jackets
- Paper wasps
- Fire Ants
The severity of an insect sting reaction can vary. A normal reaction to most stings is pain, swelling and redness at the site of the sting. If you have a reaction beyond these normal symptoms, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction to the sting.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a sting include:
- Hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the sting site
- Abdominal cramping, vomiting, intense nausea or diarrhea
- Tightness in the chest and difficulty in breathing
- Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue or throat, or difficulty swallowing
- Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness or cardiac arrest
To diagnose an insect allergy, you can meet with an allergist who will dive into your health history looking for previous sting reactions to determine if your symptoms are allergic or non-allergic. Your allergist may also recommend a skin test to determine if you are allergic to insect stings. If the skin test in inconclusive, your allergist may recommend an intradermal test to look for signs of an allergic reaction.
Management and Treatment
The first way to manage an insect sting allergy is to try and avoid stings from stinging insects. Know where they like to make their nests and when they are most active and use extreme caution when working or playing in these areas.
To manage an insect sting allergy, venom immunotherapy is sometimes used to help prevent further allergic reactions to stings.
If your insect sting allergy is life threatening, injectable epinephrine is usually prescribed as emergency medication for treating a life-threatening allergy.