Charlottesville Allergy & Respiratory Enterprises
434-295-ASAP (2727) 1524 Insurance Lane, Suite B, Charlottesville, Virginia 22911

Stinging Insect Allergy in Charlottesville

After being stung by an insect, a majority of individuals develop redness, swelling and itching only at the local site. On the other hand, certain individuals may have over reactive immune responses to such venoms, and thus are allergic to these. The phenomenon of being allergic to stinging insects involves the production of antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). In case of a repeat incident of stinging by the same kind of insect, the venom then interacts with this already existing IgE antibody, thereby causing the release of substances that constitute an allergic response. For some individuals, such allergic responses may even be life-threatening and are referred to as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis may result in symptoms such as swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, itching and hives, dizziness, abdominal cramps, nausea or diarrhea. In very severe cases, individuals may even have a rapid fall in blood pressure, which can then cause shock and loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and may be fatal. If you have these symptoms after an insect sting, get emergency medical treatment. Your allergist can help with prevention of any further similar incidents.

The following information helps you to understand more about the common insects that can cause

  • Yellow jackets have nests that are made of a paper-mach√© material and are often located underground. Sometimes, they can be found in the cracks in masonry, walls of frame buildings or even in woodpiles.
  • Honeybees and bumble bees only sting when provoked. However, Africanized honeybees or "killer bees" found in the Southwestern US are more aggressive and may even sting in swarms. Wild honeybees live in "honeycombs" colonies in hollow trees or cavities of buildings.
  • Paper wasps have nests that appear to be made of a paper-like material which forms a circular comb of cells. The nests are often located behind shutters, in shrubs or woodpiles.
  • Hornets are typically larger than yellow jackets. They have gray or brown nests that appear football-shaped. These nests are often found on branches of trees, in shrubbery or in tree hollows.
  • Fire ants have nests of dirt in the ground that may be quite tall.

The most important advice for preventing stings would be to stay away and stay clear! These insects are most likely to sting if they are provoked or if their homes are disturbed. It is, therefore, important to have nests around your home destroyed.

If you find any flying stinging insects close by, move slowly away. Also, brightly colored clothing and perfume may attract insects when outdoors. Keep your food covered until eaten. Wear closed-toe shoes outdoors and avoid going barefoot. However, if the insect stings and left its stinger in your skin, remove the stinger within 30 seconds to avoid receiving more venom. A quick scrape of your fingernail will removes the stinger and sac. Avoid squeezing the sac-this forces more venom through the stinger and into your skin. You may raise the affected limb and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. You may also gently clean area with soap and water to prevent secondary infections. Please see your physician if the swelling progresses or if the sting site seems infected

If you are severely insect-allergic, carry auto-injectable epinephrine. However, epinephrine is a rescue medication only, and you must still have someone take you to an emergency room immediately if you are stung. You may also want to consider wearing a bracelet or necklace that identifies the wearer as having severe allergies. If you have had a serious reaction to an insect sting, make an appointment with an allergist. With a proper diagnosis, treatment plan and careful avoidance, people with an insect allergy can feel more confident outdoors.

(Information only; not intended to replace medical advice; adapted from AAAAI)