Stinging Insect Allergy

insect-allergyStinging insects such as wasps, bees, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants inject venom on stinging the victims. To understand this stinging insect allergy, you need to know the difference between a normal local reaction and an allergic reaction. A normal reaction causes pain, swelling and redness at the site of the sting whereas an allergic reaction happens when the immune system overreacts to the allergen that is sting in this case. It is estimated that over 2 million Americans suffer from Insect Sting Allergy. It is also reported that about 50-150 deaths occur every year due to insect stings. Although many people just feel local itching and swelling after insect stings, some people are subjected to severe allergic reactions

The first time when an insect stings an individual who is allergic, there develops an antibody known as IgE in the body system. The IgE produced then reacts with the venom of the insect and causes the reaction, thus releasing histamine substance. When the same type of insect stings again, the venom attaches to this IgE antibody and this time the reaction occurs in a severe manner. Stinging insect allergy can cause mild symptoms such as hives to severe anaphylactic shock symptoms.

Symptoms of Stinging Insect Allergy – Severe Reaction

In some cases, the stings can produce life threatening symptoms. This reaction is known as anaphylactic shock. One can suffer from symptoms like hives, itching of the skin, swelling in the tongue and throat, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. In certain cases, even there will be rapid decrease of blood pressure resulting in loss of consciousness and shock.

These symptoms may develop within 10 minutes of the sting. If you experience these symptoms after an insect sting, you need to seek immediate medical care.

How to Identify Stinging Insects in order to Avoid them?


It is very important to identify stinging insects in order to avoid them. Here are the different stinging insects:

  • Yellow Jackets – The nests of these insects are made up of paper mache material are are located underground. They are even found in the cracks in masonry, woodpiles and walls of frame buildings.
  • Bumble Bees and Honeybees – These are non-aggressive insects and will sting a person only when provoked. Honeybees found in Southwestern U.S are very aggressive in nature and sting in swarms. Wild honeybees live in honeycombs in cavities of buildings or hollow trees whereas domesticated honeybees live in man made hives.
  • Paper Wasps – The nests are made of paper like substance which forms a circular comb of cells that open downwards. These are usually located behind shutters, woodpiles, shrubs and under eaves.
  • Hornets – The nests are larger than those of yellow jackets. They are brown or gray in color, football shaped and made of the same paper like material. They are found in tree hollows, shrubs and on the branches of trees above the ground.
  • Fire Ants – These insects build nests in the ground which raise to a height of 18 inches.
How to Treat Stings?

If the stinging insect had left any stinger in the skin, try to remove it within 30 seconds so as to avoid venom. Scraping with the fingernail helps to remove the stinger along with the sac. Do not squeeze the sac as it can force more venom through the stinger to enter into the skin. To treat the local reactions, the following measures can help:

  • Raise the sting area and apply cold compress. This helps to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Clean the area with soap and water as this prevents the onset of secondary infections.
  • Use oral antihistamines or topical steroid ointments for relief from the itching.
  • If the site of the sting seems to be infected or if the swelling progresses, consult your physician.

The physician may prescribe you various medications based on the condition of allergic reaction.

  • For mild reactions, oral antihistamines work for both adults and children. Oral corticosteroids and intra muscular administration also work.
  • For severe reactions with respiratory difficulties and shock, intra-muscular adrenaline, hydrocortisone and chlorpheniramine are prescribed.
How to Prevent Stinging Insect Allergy?
  • Stinging insects sting only when their nests are disturbed, so it is better to destroy the nests present in your surroundings.
  • If you are close by flying insects that sting, then remain yourselves calm and move away from that place.
  • Avoid bright colored clothing and perfume when on outdoors as the insects can get attracted to the colors or smell. Also be careful while eating or drinking sweet drinks.
  • Avoid going barefoot and wear closed toe shoes when outdoors.
  • Avoid wearing loose fitting garments as they can trap the insects in between the skin and material.

This is a brief overview on stinging insect allergy. So, be aware of the stinging insects and take the necessary steps at the right time to avoid any severe reactions.

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