Insect allergies can occur at any time of the year to sensitive people, but they are often a major problem during the summer when you are more likely to be outdoors doing things such as swimming, hiking and yard work, which can put you into closer contact with stinging insects.
Stinging insects include fire ants, honey bees, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets, and can cause allergic reactions in certain people. Most people who get stung by a stinging insect might have some short-term discomfort, but generally no serious side effects. Or, at worst, you might have a mild allergic reaction and notice some symptoms such as sneezing, itching, nasal congestion, and watery red eyes.
But, other people are extremely allergic to stinging insects and can even go into allergic shock after being stung. This condition is not only serious, it can be life-threatening without timely treatment. If you have asthma in addition to your allergies--and most people do--then this severe reaction is much more likely.
Diagnosing Insect Allergies
Given the fact that insect allergies can have such negative effects, it would be wise to know ahead of time that you have them. Unfortunately, most people don't discover they have a stinging insect allergy until they have a severe reaction.
There are allergy skin tests that can help to identify such allergies, however. They must be performed by an asthma specialist, called an allergist. But most allergists do not recommend that allergy testing be done for insects unless you have already had a reaction to one.
Preventing Insect Allergies
You can't really prevent the allergy from occurring, but you can prevent an allergic reaction, by avoiding contact with stinging insects. Here are some tips that may help.
- Don't make yourself attractive to bees by wearing perfume or brightly colored clothes that look like flowers.
- Get an exterminator to remove nests in your living area or yard.
- Keep your shoes on when walking outdoors and avoid walking where bees are buzzing, such as in fields of clover.
- For the best protection, wear closed toe shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outdoors.
- Watch out for yellow jackets when picnicking. They love to perch on soda cans and food.
- Use insecticides when needed.
- Be careful not to disturb nests in the yard, under eaves and in trees and shrubs.
Treating Insect Allergies
Immediate treatment is essential. If you know you have an insect allergy that causes anaphylaxis, then it's recommended that you carry injectable epinephrine, such as an Epi-Pen, with you at all times. When the pen is used, you'll also need to get emergency help at your closest ER or clinic.
If your reaction is less severe, taking an oral antihistamine may be sufficient, as well as applying comfort measures such as ice to the sting location.
So, this summer, watch out for those flying or crawling creepy crawlies that like to sting!