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Insect Allergies Advocacy Sheet

By EmpowHER

If you have insect allergies it’s important to know how to deal with the rashes, hives and other reactions that occur when you come in contact with certain insects. Dust mites, cockroaches, bees, hornets and some scorpions can cause an allergic reaction for some people. Your doctor can tell you more about insect allergies, but here are some questions you should ask:

  • What is an insect allergy? An overreaction of the immune system to insect stimuli which causes your body to produce the antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE).
  • What are symptoms of insect allergies? Common insect stings can cause redness, swelling and itching. More severe cases result in anaphylaxis, or itching and hives, swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea. Common indoor insect allergies often result in nasal congestion (rhinitis).
  • What causes insect allergies? Related to stinging insects, when a person is stung, their body produces antibodies. Then when they are stung again by the same type of insect, the venom interacts with the specific IgE antibody triggering the release of substances that cause an allergic reaction.  Indoor insect allergies are caused by repeated exposure to droppings and remains that can result in an allergic reaction.
  • How is an insect allergy diagnosed? Insect allergies can be diagnosed with a test performed by your doctor or allergist.
  • What insects should I be concerned about? Stinging insects include yellow jackets, honeybees and bumble bees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants.  Indoor insects include dust mites, cockroaches and Asian lady bugs.
  • How is an insect allergy treated? If stung or bitten, it is important to remove the stinger from your skin within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom. A quick scrape using your fingernail should do the trick to remove both stinger and attached venom sac. Stinging insect reactions can be treated with a topical steroid ointment or antihistamine (hydrocortazone). Indoor allergens can be treated with allergy remedies sold over the counter or prescribed by your doctor or allergist.
  • What is the long-term risk? Stinging insect allergies may get worse with each contact.  Indoor allergens tend to occur year round causing a constant threat to allergy sufferers.
  • Will I always be allergic to insects?
  • Is there anything I can do when I am expected to be around insects I know I am allergic to? Avoidance is key. Stinging insects are more likely to sting if their homes are disturbed, so have nests around your house destroyed. If you come in contact with a stinging insect, slowly move away. Likewise, if you know you are allergic to indoor allergens, it is important to clean bedding often to keep dust mites to a minimum and keep kitchens, garages and bathrooms clean to keep cockroaches from inhabiting those areas.
  • What if I have a severe reaction to an insect sting? If you experience a severe reaction to any allergen, including anaphylaxis, rush to the nearest emergency room or call 911 for assistance. You may want to carry a prescribed auto-injectable epinephrine and learn how to use it.

www.aaaai.org Stinging Insect
www.about.com Insect Allergy

Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.

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