Insect stings usually cause swelling, pain and redness that is limited to the sting site. In severe reactions, it includes symptoms that can appear over a wider area or affecting other body parts from where the sting occurred.
An allergic reaction to an insect sting can occur even after several normal reactions to stings and at any age. It is estimated that potentially life-threatening allergic reactions to insect venom can occur in both children and adults. The insect sting reactions are also known to cause death in some circumstances.
Most of the insect stings are caused by yellow jackets, wasps, bees and hornets. The black or red imported fire ants have been considered as a significant health hazard and can also cause stings.
Symptoms of insect sting allergy
The insect stings by hornets, honey bees, yellow jackets, wasps and fire ants are known to trigger allergic reactions. The severity of the insect sting reaction can vary from one individual to another and from one sting to the next. An individual might not experience an allergic reaction until he/she has been stung several times. Remember that there are three types of reactions that can occur.
- Normal localized reaction will cause swelling, pain and redness that are confined to the sting site.
- Large local reaction will result to swelling that extends beyond the sting site. A sting on the forearm can cause the entire arm to swell. This typically peaks 2-3 days after the sting and can last a week or more.
- Systemic allergic reaction is the most serious and requires medical care. The symptoms of a systemic allergic reaction can range from mild to severe.
If the individual experiences a systemic allergic reaction, it might include the following symptoms (either alone or as a combination):
- Dizziness or abrupt drop in the blood pressure
- Swelling in areas away from the sting site
- Hoarse voice along with difficulty swallowing and tongue swelling
- Itching, hives and swelling in areas away from the sting site
- Vomiting, abdominal cramping, severe diarrhea or nausea
- Loss of consciousness or cardiac arrest
Remember that anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that disrupts breathing. It will cause an abrupt drop in the blood pressure and send the body into a state of shock. An injection of epinephrine is administered right away and the individual must be taken to the hospital for further care.
Management of insect sting allergy
Wasps, bees, yellow jacket and hornets are most active during late summer and early fall. The black or red fire ants are also considered as health hazards all year round. Avoidance of insect stings is the first line of defense. There are several proven strategies that must be taken into consideration.
- Do not walk barefoot in grass where stinging insects are likely to forage.
- Avoid drinking from open soft drink cans since insects are attracted to them and might crawl inside.
- Always keep food covered when eating outdoors.
- Wear long pants, socks, long-sleeved shirts, shoes and work gloves when working outdoors
- Avoid using sweet-smelling deodorants, perfumes or hairsprays
- Avoid wearing bright colored clothing with flower prints or patterns
- Be careful near eaves, bushes and attics as well as avoid picnic areas and garbage containers
- Hire a professional exterminator to inspect for potential nesting areas and removal of known nests.