Allergic Reactions to Insect Stings
How Can I Avoid Being Stung?
You can lessen your chances of an insect sting by taking certain precautionary measures:
- Learn to recognize insect nests and avoid them. Yellow jackets nest in the ground in dirt mounds or old logs and walls. Honeybees nest in beehives. Hornets and wasps nest in bushes, trees, and on buildings.
- Wear shoes and socks when outdoors.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes when in wooded areas.
- Avoid wearing perfumes or brightly colored clothing. They tend to attract insects.
- If you have severe allergies, you should never be alone when hiking, boating, swimming, golfing, or otherwise involved outdoors, as you may need prompt medical treatment if stung.
- Use insect screens on windows and doors at home. Use insect repellents. Spray bedrooms with aerosols containing insecticide before going to bed.
- Spray garbage cans regularly with insecticide and keep the cans covered.
- Avoid or remove insect-attracting plants and vines growing in and around the house.
- A severely allergic person should always wear a MedicAlert bracelet and keep a self-care kit (described below) on hand for emergency use in the case of severe symptoms.
What Are Epinephrine Sting Kits?
Epinephrine self-administration kits are important for you to use immediately after being stung, before you get to a doctor for treatment. The two most common have the brand names Ana-Kit and Epi-Pen. However, these kits should not be used as a substitute for medical intervention. You should still see a doctor after being stung. Epinephrine alone is not always enough to reverse serious allergic sting reactions and may cause serious side effects in some people with heart conditions or people who are taking certain drugs.
You will need a prescription from your doctor to purchase one of these kits. You should carry two kits with you at all times. Before using, be sure to let your doctor know about any medication you are taking to prevent drug interactions.
How Can I Prevent an Allergic Reaction?
Allergic reactions to insect stings can be prevented with allergy shots (also known as immuntherapy). The treatment is 97% effective in preventing future reactions and involves injecting gradually increasing doses of venom that stimulate your immune system to become resistant to a future allergic reaction.
If you've had an allergic reaction, it's important to talk to an allergist, a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disease. Based on your history and test results, the allergist will determine if you are a candidate for immunotherapy treatment.