Take the Bite Out of an Insect Allergy

No one likes being stung by bees or insects, but if you suffer from an insect allergy, you're probably worried about more than just the pain that goes with it. Today, about three percent of the population in the United States has an insect allergy, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. And if you fall into this group, you probably know that an insect bite can cause a serious reaction that in some cases can even be a life or death situation.

What is an Insect Allergy?

An insect allergy is just what it sounds like: an allergy to the bite or sting of a bug. It is generally caused by yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants. When you get stung by any of these insects, venom is released into your body and if you are allergic, this prompts your immune system to go into overdrive. Many people who have an insect allergy have mild symptoms, especially the first time they are stung, but keep in mind that the reaction can get worse with progressive and/or multiple bites. Therefore, is important to be on the lookout for signs of a reaction, which can include:

  • Swelling at the site of the sting
  • Sneezing, coughing and wheezing
  • Severe itching and hives (at places other than the site of the bite)
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Swelling of your throat or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea
  • Rapid drop in blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness

Some of the more severe signs can indicate possible anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. You should always call 911 if you think you could be having a medical emergency.

Protect Yourself

You don't have to stand by in fear every time a bug flies by, nor do you have to spend every day hiding inside. The experts say that there are things you can do to help protect yourself while you enjoy the nice weather.  For instance:

  • Avoid using bath products and colognes with a sweet or floral smell that can attract bugs.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants if you plan to work outdoors so you aren't exposing much of your skin.
  • Wear shoes outside, even in your yard to prevent stepping on a stinging insect.
  • Remove open food and drink containers that could attract pests.
  • Always carry autoinjectable epinephrine (also called an epi-pen) in case you do get stung. This will temporarily help head off a dangerous reaction and allow you extra time to receive medical care.

Consider Allergy Shots

Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, can also help you to build up a tolerance to the insect venom so that you can lessen, or even prevent, your reaction to an insect bite. These work by introducing small amounts of the venom into your system under a controlled setting to allow your body to get used to it. If your allergies are severe, you should talk to your doctor about this option, which could be very effective.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology