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Be Prepared for Insect Stings!
See an Insect Allergy Specialist in New Orleans
Learn about stinging insect allergies from Dr. Reena Mehta, a board-certified allergist in New Orleans, LA. Let her help diagnose, manage, and treat you or your children’s stinging insect allergies. Contact us today!
“Dr Mehta is a very knowledgeable and caring allergist. She was able to immediately diagnose and treat my toddler’s severe allergic reaction. She has excellent bedside manners. Her office is pleasant, staff is courteous and nice. Parking is convenient. I am very comfortable about leaving my son’s health in her hands.“
– Gauravi, February 2019
Stinging insect allergy, also called venom allergy, occurs when the immune system overreacts to the venom transferred by an insect during a sting.
In most individuals with a stinging insect allergy, reactions are caused by 5 types of insects:
- Yellow Jackets
- Honeybees and Bumble Bees
- Paper Wasps
- Fire Ants
You can learn more about how to identify these and other stinging insects on the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website.
It’s normal for an insect sting to cause pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the sting. This reaction alone is not indicative of an allergy. Individuals with an insect allergy will also experience severe systemic symptoms, called anaphylaxis, when stung by an insect that they are allergic to. Stinging insect allergy symptoms include:
- Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- Itchiness and hives over large areas of the body
- Nausea or diarrhea
- Stomach cramps
Insect Allergy or Toxic Reaction?
Toxic reaction occurs when insect venom acts like a poison in the body. Toxic reaction can cause symptoms that are similar to an allergic reaction, but toxic reaction is not allergy-related. Symptoms of toxic reaction include nausea, fever, swelling at the site of the sting, fainting, seizures, shock, and even death.
Insect Allergy or Serum Sickness?
Serum sickness is another distinct reaction to an insect sting that’s not allergy-related but can have allergy-like symptoms. Serum sickness is an unusual reaction to a foreign substance in the body that can cause symptoms hours or days after the sting. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, other flu-like symptoms, and sometimes hives.
When first evaluating for a stinging insect allergy, Dr. Mehta will ask you questions about previous stings, your reaction to those stings, and what symptoms you experienced. Diagnostic questions can include the following:
- How many stings have you had?
- Where were you stung?
- What was your reaction like? What symptoms did you experience?
- How long did your reaction last?
- What did you do to alleviate your reaction?
Stinging Insect Allergy Testing
Getting a stinging insect allergy test is important if your symptoms are consistent with an insect allergy. To confirm your diagnosis, Dr. Mehta will administer a skin-prick test and/or an intradermal skin test. In a skin-prick test, a small amount of liquid containing insect venom is placed on the back or the forearm and then pricked with a sterile needle to allow the liquid to seep into the skin. Because patients are usually unaware of what insect they reacted to, venom testing is usually performed with each of the five commercial venom extracts: bee, wasp, yellow jacket, yellow hornet, and white faced hornet. The treated area is examined 15 to 20 minutes after the venom is administered to see if a reaction has occurred.
If the skin prick test is negative or inconclusive then an intradermal skin test may be used. An intradermal test involves injecting a small amount of venom extract just under the skin, and is considered to be more sensitive than the skin-prick test. If both skin-prick and intradermal tests are negative, then Dr. Mehta may recommend a blood test as a final step to rule out stinging insect allergy.
How to Avoid Stinging Insect
Avoidance is an important part of managing your insect allergies. These steps can help you limit your exposure:
- Have hives and nests around your home destroyed
- If you find yourself in the presence of a stinging insect, remain calm and quite and slowly move away
- Insects can confuse bright colors and perfume scents with flowers; avoid brightly colored clothing and perfume when outdoors
- Sweet foods and beverages can attract insects; cover food and drinks when cooking, eating, or drinking outside
- Wear closed-toe shoes when outdoors and avoid going barefoot such that you do not step on any stinging insects
It’s important to be prepared in the event of a sting. Be ready with epinephrine in case you have an anaphylactic reaction, and call 911 immediately if you experience anaphylaxis after a sting.
Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
Allergy shots can be an effective long-term treatment for stinging insect allergy, and can potentially help prevent allergic stinging insect reactions altogether.
See an Insect Allergy Specialist in New Orleans
Make sure you and your children are prepared for your next encounter with stinging insects. See an insect allergy specialist. Dr. Mehta has a reputation for developing strong relationships with her patients and being exceptionally attentive to their needs and concerns.
Call us anytime, M-F, 8am-5pm.
Saturday appointments available upon request.
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