In the great outdoors, a walk in the park can quickly turn into a dance with danger when stinging insects make an appearance. While for most people, an insect sting might only cause temporary discomfort and irritation, for others, it can trigger a severe allergic reaction that could potentially be life-threatening.
Common Stinging Insects
The first step to managing insect sting allergies is knowing which insects pose a threat. Most stinging insect allergies are caused by:
- Fire ants
Gardening, outdoor eating, and even just walking barefoot in the grass can increase your chances of an encounter and potentially put you at risk.
Common Signs and Symptoms
If you get stung by an insect, most of the time it’s just a localized reaction. You’ll probably just feel a bit of pain, be red, and have some swelling in the area where the sting happened. This should go away in a few hours or days.
Some people may have more pronounced redness and swelling beyond the sting area. These can last for a few days and are usually not dangerous but can be pretty uncomfortable. For example, if you get stung on your elbow, you might experience swelling of the entire arm. Even if this can cause alarm, it is often a normal reaction to a sting.
It’s important to watch out for symptoms such as extreme redness or swelling that increases for more than 48 hours after the sting.
On the other hand, if you are allergic to insect stings, you will likely develop a system allergic reaction, which can range from mild to severe. A mild allergic reaction can result in:
- Pimple-like spots
- Mild to moderate swelling
Moderate allergic reactions can result in additional symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and feelings of unease. Some people might also experience breathing difficulties.
Severe allergic reactions from insect stings are not common; however, they require prompt medical attention when they happen. Symptoms of a severe or anaphylactic reaction include:
- Dizziness or a sharp drop in blood pressure
- Hives that appear as a red, itchy rash
- Rapid pulse
- Restlessness and anxiety
- Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, or any part of the mouth
- Trouble breathing
- Wheezing or trouble swallowing
If you or someone around you experiences the aforementioned signs of anaphylaxis following an insect sting, call emergency services immediately.
If the person has an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen), use it without delay, even before the medical help arrives. EpiPen is the first-line treatment for severe anaphylaxis and can help reverse the symptoms.
Treatment for Stinging Insect Allergies
Minor allergic reactions to insect stings can usually be treated successfully with self-care, such as:
- Safely removing the stinger from the skin
- Washing the sting area with soap and water
- Elevating the sting area to reduce swelling.
- Applying cold compress
- Taking over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or antihistamines
- Applying topical corticosteroids on the skin to relieve itching and swelling.
Severe allergic reactions require emergency medical treatment. If the person with a severe allergic reaction has an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen), use it without delay, even before the ambulance arrives. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment for anaphylaxis and can help reverse the symptoms.
Once the symptoms subside or their intensity reduces, it is recommended to visit an allergist. An allergist can perform a comprehensive assessment and provide treatments such as venom immunotherapy to reduce the intensity risk of future reactions.
Some Ways to Prevent Stinging Insect Allergies
Preventing a sting is always better than treating one. Here are some tips:
- Wear shoes and long pants when walking in grassy areas.
- Avoid wearing bright colors or floral prints, which can attract insects.
- Do not use perfumes or scented soaps that might attract insects.
- Be careful when eating outdoors, especially with sweet drinks or fruits that insects may be attracted to.
- Keep windows and doors closed or screened to prevent insects from coming indoors.
Stinging Insect Allergy Treatment in Oak Brook, Illinois
If you or someone you love has a suspected bee sting allergy, consult our board-certified allergist here at Oak Brook Allergists. We thoroughly assess the patient’s symptoms and offer allergy testing to identify the underlying cause of your allergies accurately.
Once the culprit of your allergic reaction is found, our allergist will work with you to create a treatment plan, which may include a variety of treatment options, including medications, epinephrine injections, and immunotherapy.
If you would like to know more about stinging insect allergy or want to schedule a consultation with one of our providers, contact us today at (630) 574-0460 or fill out our online appointment request form now.