Insect Allergy


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insect allergyIf you’re allergic to the stings or bites of insects, navigating your way rhough the summer can be more dangerous than bicycling through New York City. An estimated 2 million Americans have insect allergies, which send more than 500,000 of them to the hospital and cause at least 50 deaths per year. That figure may actually br higher, since some insect-allergy related deaths may not be recognized as such. Almost half of the fatal reactions occur in people who have no history of insect allergies. If you suspect you may be allergic, ask your doctor to do a skin test.

Insect Allergy Culprits

The culprits include stinging insects, such as bees, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps, and fire ants, and biting insects, such as mosquitoes and bedbugs. Most of which are plentiful in late July, August and early September. You’ll know you’re allergic to one of them if, after you’ve been bitten, you develop hives, itchiness, swelling in areas other than the sting bite, difficulty breathing, dizziness, a hoarse voice, and/or swelling of the tongue. In severe reactions, you may lose consciousness and go into cardiac arrest as your body becomes overwhelmed and goes into anaphylactic shock. Don’t be surprised if the symptoms hit several hours after your encounter with the insect and gradually worsen before dissipating.

There’s really no way to know if you’re allergic to an insect until you’ve been stung, since this is one of the few allergies in which there is no clear family history. Just because a parent is allergic to bee stings doesn’t mean that you will be.

If you’re stung, try applying cold compresses and/or an over-the-counter hydro-cortisone cream to reduce the stinging and swelling, but even if that first reaction is mild, make sure you see an allergist.Not only do you need a doctor’s prescription for the epinephrine kit, you should ask if you’re a candidate for venom immunotherapy, or allergy shots, which can desensitize you to most insect stings.

Related Post: Wasp Allergy.

Excerpt from Allergy & Asthma Relief, Debra Gordon, Co-author of Allergy & Asthma Relief, Reader’s Digest, 2004

Insect Allergies Explained

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