Insect allergies are allergic reactions to the bite or sting of an insect. Insects which commonly generate allergic responses include either stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, ants (which can cause life threatening reactions) or biting insects such as mosquitoes and ticks (rarely causing severe reactions). Stinging insects normally inject venom while biting insects normally inject proteins that thin the blood.
What are the Common Symptoms of Insect Allergies?
The most common symptom is a reaction to the local sting or bite site where swelling appears as a result of the body’s release of chemical mediators like histamine near the site. The swelling can be reduced by oral anti-histamines, NSAIDS, and an ice pack at the site of reaction held for 10-15 minute intervals. This is the most common allergic reaction to insect bites.
Skeeter Syndrome is a severe localized allergic reaction to mosquito bites that will cause swelling in the area of the bite and sometimes fever. This is sometimes confused as cellulitis, but does not require antibiotics.
In anaphylactic patients, the allergic response to a bite or sting can is much more severe and potentially life-threatening. If anyone has experienced anaphylactic symptoms such as hives, itching, flushing, swelling, sneezing, runny nose, cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness after an insect sting, he or she should seek the care of an allergist.
How is an Insect Allergy Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of stinging insect allergy is made first by taking a careful history regarding reaction(s). If the allergist decides that testing is necessary, skin tests are typically done first in a standardized fashion. If there is any uncertainty after skin testing is done, then blood tests, or RAST tests may be added also to aid in diagnosis.
How is an Insect Allergy Treated?
The allergy is treated either by avoiding the particular insect when possible or immunotherapy can help in this arena as well.