Stinging Insect Awareness and How to Avoid Contact

As the weather warms up and summer nears, it is important for people to be aware of stinging insect allergies. About 2 million Americans are allergic to stinging insects, which can result in severe allergic reactions, some fatal. However, you can get tested and treated. You can also be educated about reactions and their severities, as well as how to avoid contact with stinging insects.

When it comes to stinging insect allergies, there are three main types of reactions to be aware of. These include normal, localized and allergic reactions.

* A normal reaction is the least severe, which consists of pain, swelling and redness around the sting location.

* Localized reactions are more severe with swelling which goes beyond the location of the sting.

* An allergic reaction, the most severe, can include difficulty breathing and swallowing ; wheezing; hives which look like a red and itchy rash that will spread beyond the location of the sting; face, throat and mouth swelling; restlessness; anxiety; rapid pulse; and dizziness or a drop in blood pressure. Although reactions vary from person to person, if you experience a severe allergic reaction, you should seek medical attention immediately.

If you have had a systemic reaction you should always have an epinephrine device with you at all times. It could save your life. See our video in the Gallery section to see these devices and demonstration of their proper use. Also hymenoptera or stinging insect immunotherapy or allergy shots are 99.4% effective in curing these allergies. See the testing below.

With a few simple precautions, you can still enjoy the outdoors if you are allergic to stinging insects.

* Avoid bright-colored clothes and strong perfumes, lotions and colognes

* Educate yourself on the different types of stinging insects, what they look like, and where their nests can be found.

o Yellow Jackets-dirt mounds in the ground, logs and walls

o Honey Bees-beehives

o Hornets and wasps-bushes, trees and buildings

* Wear shoes and socks outdoors, including extra clothing (long sleeves and pants) if in the woods

* Use screens on doors and windows at home, as well as insecticide sprays inside and in trashcans (keep lids on)

* Keep plants that attract insects outdoors

* Keep proper medications, self-care kits and an allergy bracelet  on you at all times

* Avoid doing outdoor activities alone, if you have severe stinging insect allergies

* Keep car windows closed

* If you have a history of allergic reactions, you should always carry an EPI pen or AUVI-Q.

If you get stung, here are a few tips to treat yourself. However, it is best to still seek medical attention.

* Remove jewelry, especially rings, before swelling begins

* Remove the stinger immediately before the venom spreads. The stinger can be removed by using a fingernail or gauze. Do not squeeze the sac.

* Wash the sting location with soap and water

* Apply antiseptic


If you are concerned about whether or not you are allergic to stinging insects, an Allergist can perform a stinging insect test. The test consists of five pricks on the forearm, including Honey Bee, Yellow Jacket, Yellow Hornet, White Hornet and Wasp. After 15 minutes, if there is no reaction, the next step is to start intradermal injections in the upper arm, with an increased strength. If no reaction again, they will repeat this step three more times, increasing the strength each time. If positive then you can choose to receive immunotherapy, which again is 99.4% curative. A serum will specifically be made to fit your needs.