If you have an allergic reaction to the venom of a particular insect, experts estimate that you have a sixty percent chance of being allergic to other insects as well. Bees, wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets should be avoided as much as possible. In the Southern parts of the United States, fire ants also cause allergic reactions.
Ticks, biting flies and some varieties of spider may also cause allergic reactions, although incidents of reactions from these species are infrequent. A mosquito bite can cause a reaction, although a serious allergic reaction to a mosquito bite is uncommon.
Symptoms: Itching, Hives and Anaphylactic Shock
A normal reaction to a bee sting or other bug bite is fairly mild. The immune system reacts to the venom in the sting, resulting in some pain, itching, swelling and redness around the sting or bite.
In more severe reactions, swelling and hives spread beyond the original reaction site. A bee sting may result in swelling and itching over a large area of the body, for example, or a mosquito bite can swell up to the size of a grapefruit. Such reactions may last for several days. As alarming and discomforting as such symptoms may be, they are not usually cause for concern. An important exception, of course, is any swelling around the mouth, throat or nose that restricts breathing.
The most severe reaction to stinging insects is anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis. Symptoms include hives and skin rashes in areas of the body where the bee sting or other bite occurred. The allergy sufferer may experience tightness around the chest, and dyspnea (dyspnea is difficulty breathing). The throat may swell, and the person’s voice may become hoarse. Dizziness may occur as the victim’s blood pressure plummets. Left untreated, anaphylaxis can result in loss of consciousness and death.
Treatment: Calamine Lotion to Epinephrine
Treat a “normal” reaction to a bee sting or other bite by disinfecting the sting site and icing the area to provide relief. If the stinger is embedded in the skin, remove it by “scraping” or brushing it off with a flat edge (hard plastics are useful for this). Pulling on the stinger will release more venom into the wound. Mosquito bite itchiness can be combated with calamine lotion. Stings from wasps and bees may also be soothed by calamine lotion.
In cases where the wound has swollen to an unusual size, disinfect and ice the wound as you would a less serious bite. Antihistamines or steroids may be prescribed to treat swelling, and generally reduce discomfort until the swelling subsides. Check with your doctor.
Anaphylactic shock requires immediate medical attention. Epinephrine, an adrenaline-based medication, is available for people who suffer from life-threatening allergies. Epinephrine can be self-administered by syringe or by using a specially designed “pen.” Even after an administration of epinephrine, the allergy sufferer should receive professional medical care as soon as possible.
Know Your Enemy. If you suffer from serious insect bite allergies, knowing how stinging insects behave can make your life safer. Bees, wasps and other stinging insects are often attracted to sweet fragrances: soft drinks, hair spray and open garbage cans will attract insects. While insect repellant may help with mosquitoes, it doesn’t deter stinging insects.
Learn where insects make their nests. Yellowjackets nest in walls and on the ground. Wasps and hornets favor bushes, trees and overhanging areas on buildings. Avoid walking over grass barefoot: you can easily step on a wasp or foraging bee. And avoid floral patterns on clothing: bees have been known to mistake bright patterns for flowers.
While cockroaches don’t bite, don’t sting and aren’t venomous, many people are allergic to them, or more accurately their fecal matter. If you suffer from chronic or repeated ear or sinus infections, a stuffy nose, asthma, or skin rash, talk with your doctor about evaluating your sensitivity to cockroaches and other airborne allergens.