Insect stings are the cause of 500,000 emergency room visits each year, and more than two million Americans are allergic to stinging insects.
The most serious allergic reaction to stings is anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal, causing approximately 40 deaths per year.
Stinging insects that could be deadly for an allergic patient are the honey bee, yellow jacket, white-faced hornet, yellow hornet, wasp and fire ant. Although less than 5 percent of the U.S. population has a severe reaction to insect stings, it is wise to be prepared.
“You cannot predict whether or not you are allergic to insect stings,” said Dr. Beth Miller, director of the UK HealthCare Asthma, Allergy and Sinus Clinic. “To become allergic, you have to become sensitized. In other words, you have to be stung. If your reaction to a sting requires a physician visit, ER visit, or you are given an Epi-Pen?, you should see an allergist for an evaluation.”
Normal symptoms after an insect sting include pain, swelling, redness and itching at the site of the sting. Symptoms that may indicate a more serious and possibly life-threatening allergic reaction include tightness in the throat or chest, trouble breathing and nausea. If you think you may be having an allergic reaction, go to the emergency room. All patients with stinging insect allergy should also see an allergist, who can advise on allergy injections.
Whether or not you have an insect sting allergy, there are simple precautions to help avoid stings:
Avoid scented lotions, hair spray and perfumes.
Avoid bright clothing.
Avoid areas where trash cans are kept.
Don’t disturb hives or nests. Contact a professional for removal.
Always wear shoes when going outside.