Stinging Insect Allergy

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If you're out working in the yard, you may come across a hornet's nest or perhaps some honey bees. It may be a good time to remember what to do if you get stung.

When most people get stung by an insect, the site develops redness, swelling and itching. However, some people are allergic to insect stings. This means that their immune systems overreact to the venom and it could become life-threatening.

Getting tested for insect sting allergies can identity what caused the reaction. Then the option of allergy shots to venom is also available, which can be lifesaving.

Dr. Halie Anderson at Rapid City Medical Center says you can train your immune system to not be allergic to insect stings.

“That process is a big commitment; it’s a big process, anywhere from three to five years," Anderson said. "But ultimately people can train their immune systems so they are not allergic. Then they can go out in the outdoors and enjoy themselves without the fear of being stung and having a severe reaction."

The process starts with an injection with bits of honey bee venom.

"We first do it in little amounts, then we build it up until we call maintenance. At the maintenance dose, it’s like the equivalent of getting two stings every time we give you a shot. Then we do that for three to five years, and that trains your immune system over time not to be allergic anymore.”

If you do have known adverse reactions to stings, make sure to always carry an injectable epinephrine. An EpiPen can be a rescue measure to give you the time you need until you can get advance medical attention.

If you do get stung, scratch out the stinger with your fingernail, put a cold compress on the area, elevate the area, use anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen and use a topical cortisone cream to help with itching.

Anderson also notes that using bug sprays can be effective to combat getting stung along with the use of nets, if applicable. Anderson says to stay away from insect nests altogether and avoid bright or floral pattered clothing and floral smelling perfumes as they attract stinging insects.

Click here for information on stinging insect allergies. 

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