While a majority of people will experience some sort of reaction to an insect bite or sting, others will have serious and potentially life-threatening reactions. These patients are referred to as having an insect hypersensitivity. At Silver Falls Dermatology in Washington and Oregon, patients can learn how to manage their insect hypersensitivity or choose treatment options including immunotherapy.
What is Insect Hypersensitivity?
Insect hypersensitivity is also referred to as an insect sting or bite allergy. This is a reaction to poisons or other toxins present in insect venom, which is introduced to the body by a sting or bite. While a majority of people will develop a small amount of swelling, redness, itchiness or pain due to a sting or bite, others may have excessive immune responses which can be life-threatening. Allergic reactions to insect stings or bites can worsen with subsequent instances. A majority of serious insect hypersensitivity is caused by stinging insects, including:
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
Some patients may also experience insect hypersensitivity to biting insects, though this is less common. Examples include:
Insect Hypersensitivity Symptoms
Insect hypersensitivity patients may experience dermatologic symptoms or anaphylaxis. Dermatologic symptoms may include:
- Rashes or hives
Anaphylactic symptoms are more severe and can be life-threatening. These include:
- Swelling of the tongue, lips or throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
- Stomach pain, vomiting, bloating or diarrhea
- Emotional distress including anxiety, panic or confusion
Insect Hypersensitivity Treatment
Patients who experience severe reactions due to insect hypersensitivity are typically instructed to carry epinephrine autoinjectors (EpiPens). These can be used to treat anaphylaxis. Extreme reactions including anaphylaxis are medical emergencies and should be treated in an emergency room or by calling 911.
Immunotherapy may also be recommended for those with insect hypersensitivity. This involves routine injections to gradually reduce sensitivity to the allergen.