Getting stung by a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet, or fire ant may be a relatively minor – if temporarily painful – injury to some, but for those who experience an allergic reaction to insect stings, it can be a much more serious medical issue.
There are three types of reactions to insect stings that vary in severity:
- A normal reaction triggers pain, swelling, and redness at the sting site.
- A large local reaction will cause swelling that extends beyond the site of the sting.
- An allergic reaction – the most serious –needs to be treated immediately. Symptoms may include hives and itching, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue and throat, a weak or rapid pulse, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or fainting, or loss of consciousness.
There are several steps you can take to avoid insect stings, as well as ways to treat them if you do get stung and have an allergic reaction.
Dealing with An Allergic Reaction
Of course, the best way to prevent an allergic reaction to insect stings is to avoid getting stung in the first place. That may be easier said than done, but you can reduce your risk by being cautious when outdoors, using an EPA-registered insect repellent, and wearing light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants.
However, if you are stung and have an allergic reaction, here are three ways to get prompt relief:
- For a minor reaction, wash the stung area with an antibacterial soap and water, and apply a cold compress.
- For a large local reaction, wash the stung area with antibacterial soap and water, apply a cold compress, and take an over-the-counter pain reliever (such as ibuprofen) to help relieve discomfort. If you are stung in the arm or leg, elevate it. Ease the redness, itching, or swelling by applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. If the itching or swelling persists and is bothersome, take an oral antihistamine that contains Benadryl or chlorpheniramine. Avoid scratching the stung area, as it will only worsen the itching and swelling and increase the risk of infection.
- A serious allergic reaction will require emergency treatment. If you have been diagnosed with an allergy to insect bites and stings, your doctor may have prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector (e.g., EpiPen, Auvi-Q) which you should carry with you at all times. An autoinjector is a combined syringe and concealed needle designed to inject a dose of medication when pressed against your thigh. The purpose of an epinephrine autoinjector is to avoid a severe anaphylactic reaction that could be life-threatening.
Another way to avoid a severe allergic reaction to insect stings is to undergo immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots. These are generally given regularly for a few years and can reduce or even eliminate allergic response to insect stings.
Allergic Reaction Treatment in the Greater Chicago Area
Once you are diagnosed, our board-certified allergists will work with you to avoid being stung, as well as provide you with an emergency adrenaline kit that can save your life in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
Allergy shots have proven to be highly effective in preventing severe allergic responses. This therapy gradually exposes your body to minute quantities of venom in order to desensitize it to the allergen. The result is a significantly less severe reaction should you get stung in the future – or it may prevent an allergic response altogether.
Make sure you and your loved ones are protected against stinging insect allergies by contacting the experts at Oak Brook Allergists in northeast Illinois today. You can call us at (630) 574-0460 to schedule your appointment,or you can request one online now.