The AAAAI And FAAN Offer Advice On Stinging Insect Allergies
MILWAUKEE -As summer comes to an end, you may have noticed an increase in the number of stinging insects, such as yellow jackets and wasps, flying through the air. For most people, getting stung results in temporary redness, swelling and itching at the site of the sting. But for a small number of people with severe venom allergy, stings may be life-threatening.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) urge people who suffer from a stinging insect allergy to take extra precautions and to carry epinephrine with them at all times.
"September through October is prime sting season; a nest that had a few dozen yellow jackets in July may have thousands in late September" said David B.K. Golden, MD, Fellow of the AAAAI and member of the AAAAI's Insect Allergy Committee. "Therefore, be careful when doing yard work or attending football games this fall."
Up to 5% of Americans are at risk for severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reactions from stinging insects. Unfortunately, most people are not aware that they are allergic to insect stings until after experiencing a reaction.
When an allergic person is stung, his or her body produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). The venom reacts with the IgE antibodies which trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause allergic reactions. Severe allergic reactions to insect stings can involve many body organs and may develop rapidly. This reaction is called anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis are:
- Itching and hives over large areas of the body
- Swelling in the throat or tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- Stomach cramps
- In severe cases, a rapid fall in blood pressure may result in shock or loss of consciousness
- Stay out of the "territory" of stinging insects' nests
- Hire a trained exterminator to destroy nest and hives near your home
- Don't drink from a straw or can that you cannot see inside of, this is a favorite place for yellow jackets to hide
- Do not swat at stinging insects if encountered by them
- Avoid wearing heavy perfume and brightly colored clothing outdoors
- Keep all food covered outside until eaten
- Yellow jackets - black with yellow markings and are found in various climates
- Honeybees - rounded, "fuzzy" body with dark brown coloring and yellow markings
- Paper wasps - slender, elongated bodies that are black, brown or red with yellow markings
- Hornets - black or brown with white, orange or yellow markings and are larger than yellow jackets
- Fire ants - reddish brown to black stinging insects related to bees and wasps
Anyone who has had a serious adverse reaction to an insect sting should be evaluated by an allergist/immunologist. He or she will take a thorough history, perform an examination and recommend testing to determine whether you have an allergy, and which type of stinging insect caused the reaction.
"It is very important to tell your doctor if you have had a severe reaction to a sting, and see an allergist who can evaluate the danger and the need for an epinephrine injector or venom immunotherapy." said Anne Munoz-Furlong, Founder of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. "Severe allergic reactions to insect stings will often happen again in people who have had a reaction, and can be prevented completely by venom immunotherapy,"
To find an allergist/immunologist in your area or to learn more about asthma and allergies, call the AAAAI Physician Referral and Information Line at 1(800) 822-2762 or visit the AAAAI Web site at www.aaaai.org.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology is the largest professional medical specialty organization in the United States, representing allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals, and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has nearly 6,000 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries.