It has been officially estimated that around two million people in the United States alone suffer from insect venom allergies. Stings from bees or wasps and bites from certain spiders are not the most pleasant thing to happen to anybody. However, for some folks, the discomfort goes beyond the moderate pain that dissipates in a few hours. Insect bites and stings are toxic for everybody but they can also cause much more serious reactions in those that are allergic to the venom.
Symptoms of Insect Venom Allergies
Symptoms may involve swelling of the lips, tongue and throat and, in severe cases, breathing difficulties. Anaphylaxis is common in those allergic to bites and stings. The blood pressure drops precipitously, leading to dizziness and possible circulatory failure. The throat can swell to the point that breathing is completely blocked. Even in less severe cases, wheezing is a common allergic reaction to those sensitive to venom. Itching and swelling at the site are typical.
Fortunately, there are several effective strategies for dealing with allergic reactions associated with insect venom allergies.
Avoidance is the best line of defense, but that can be difficult to do.
Stinging Insect Venom Allergies
Bees are prevalent anywhere flowers are found and wasps are attracted to sugar solutions, meat and other foods that can be inside or outside the home. Hummingbird feeders, outdoor barbecues and other common elements can attract either. Hanging traps away from these attractions can help.
Spider Venom Allergies
Spiders are usually a little easier to avoid since they tend to avoid contact. Keep sheds clean and swept free of webs to encourage them to try their luck elsewhere. Keep a sharp eye out for them in dimly lit areas of the basement or gardening shed.
Insect Venom Allergies Treatments
Only a professional diagnosis can completely distinguish an ordinary reaction to a bite or sting and an allergic reaction. But anytime the reaction goes beyond the normal level of pain and swelling that subside in a few hours, insect venom allergies should be suspected.
However, in some cases you cannot wait anywhere that long. If breathing becomes difficult or the person experiences facial or throat swelling away from the site, immediate action will need to be taken.
When bees release their barbed stinger and fly away, the stinger remains in the skin. It is usually accompanied by all or part of the venom sac and contains tissue that will continue to pump venom after it separates from the bee. Do not pluck the stinger out but rather try to scrape it away. This helps remove the barb and gets rid of the sac without squeezing out more venom. Wasp stingers can be removed by scraping the skin with a sterilized dull knife in the direction opposite the entry.
Then apply ice or a very cold, wet washcloth to the area to reduce pain and swelling. If allergic symptoms persist or grow, have medication on hand.
With spider bites, look for any necrosis, which is black, dying tissue, that occurs apart from the redness or swelling. If the affected area spreads beyond the puncture site, seek immediate professional medical care.
Antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) are beneficial. A topical hydrocortisone cream can help, too. In more severe cases of insect venom allergies, it will be desirable to have handy an EpiPen or similar device. They allow patients to inject a controlled amount of epinephrine to treat anaphylaxis symptoms. They are not for everyone, however. and you should consult your physician first.