Now that spring has sprung everyone is spending more time outdoors. The more time spent outdoors, the more likely an insect will sting you. It is important to spot the difference between an allergic reaction and a normal reaction to an insect sting.

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, most insect stings in the United States come from yellow jackets, honeybees, hornets, wasps, and fire ants. When stung by an insect, a reaction will occur, but a normal reaction versus an allergic reaction differs in symptoms. A normal reaction will result in swelling and redness that is confined to the sting site, as well as pain. A reaction for someone with an insect sting allergy will include: pain, redness, swelling (in the area of the sting and farther), hives, itching, flushing, and in some cases anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening reaction that includes: feeling faint, difficulty breathing, wheezing, fast heartbeat, clammy skin, hives, nausea, and/or swelling of the tongue.

Management and Treatment:

Non-Allergic Reaction:

If you are experiencing a normal (non-allergic) reaction, it is important to first remove any stringer that might be in your skin. You can remove it by using a straight edge, i.e. a credit card, to scrape the area. It is important not to pinch or use tweezers to remove the stinger because this may release more venom. Icing the area will control swelling and try to keep the area elevated. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help ease any pain, and an antihistamine or calamine lotion can help with itchiness.

Allergic Reaction:

If you are stung by an insect and experience an anaphylaxis reaction, it is imperative to administer injectable epinephrine and then seek emergency medical attention. If your allergic symptoms are not life threatening, an antihistamine may also provide relief.

A long term treatment for those with an insect sting allergy is venom immunotherapy. This involves administering doses of venom and a gradually increasing level to help decrease sensitivity to the venom. If you are interested in venom immunotherapy, you can schedule an appointment with a board-certified allergist at National Allergy & ENT. There an allergist will be able to discuss immunotherapy and if it is the best treatment option for you. To schedule an appointment please call (843) 797-8162 or schedule online.