Insect Venom Allergy Clinic
No one likes to be stung by an insect. While it’s an uncomfortable experience for everyone, the resulting effects may be more pronounced in certain individuals. This is due to an allergen found in insect venom.
A common reaction to an insect sting is to have the site of the attack develop redness, swell, and begin to itch. An allergy to insect venom means that the immune system overreacts to the venom from the insect sting because the body has developed antibodies, Immunoglobulin E, that interact with the venom.
The top 5 insects known to cause an allergic reaction are:
- Honeybees/ bumblebees
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
Note: Some may not experience an allergic reaction from their first insect sting. Symptoms may not appear until the second or third exposure to the insect’s venom.
Severe insect allergy reactions may result in anaphylaxis, which includes one or more of the following symptoms: itching, hives, swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea.
In severe cases, insect venom allergies can cause a rapid fall in blood pressure that may result in shock, and loss of consciousness.
Diagnosing an Insect Allergy
If you are concerned that you may be allergic to insect venom, you should be referred to an allergist for specific testing. The registered nurse will discuss medical and insect sting reaction history.
An intradermal skin test is conducted on the patient’s forearm. A waiting period of 15 – 20 minutes is required in order for results to development. The allergist will then check the results to confirm a suspected allergy.
Treatment Options for an Insect Allergy
The first step in living with an insect venom allergy is knowing how to avoid being stung by an insect. Be aware that stinging insects are most active in late spring, summer, and early fall, and that insect repellents do not work against them.
The allergist can prescribe certain medications, an EpiPen or recommend a course of Venom Immunotherapy.
Venom Allergy Immunotherapy or allergy shots, are proven to be very effective in treating insect venom allergies. Allergen immunotherapy treatment can help prevent a serious reaction if/when a patient is stung by an insect.
How to avoid being stung:
- Stay clear of stinging insects’ nests or perceived territory.
- If you encounter flying insects, remain calm and quiet, and move slowly. Do not “swat” them.
- Many stinging insects are searching for nectar; a sweet flavoured liquid found in, among other things, colourful wildflowers. Avoid brightly colored clothing and perfume when outdoors.
- Be careful when cooking, eating or drinking sweet drinks, like soda or juice, outdoors – the smell of food attracts insects. Keep food covered until eaten.