With summer soon arriving, many of us will be spending more time outside enjoying the warmer temperatures. However, more time spent outdoors can mean increased chances of getting insect stings, so it’s important to take preventative measures so you can still enjoy some summer fun.
Insects that are members of the Hymenoptera family most commonly cause allergic reactions. These include:
- Yellow jackets
- Fire ants
Allergic reactions to insect stings
The reactions are usually at the site of the sting, with redness, swelling, pain and itching. Generally, the reaction may last only a few hours, although some may last longer.
For some people, allergic reactions to insect stings can be life-threatening, requiring immediate medical attention. The reaction is called anaphylaxis and can include severe symptoms such as:
- Itching and hives over most of the body
- Swelling of the throat and tongue
- Difficulty breathing and tightness in the chest
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
- Stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea
- Rapid fall in blood pressure
- Loss of consciousness
Preventing insect stings
Preventive measures include:
- Keep food covered when eating outdoors.
- Be careful with open drink bottles or cans. Insects can fly or crawl inside them.
- Avoid perfumes, hair products and deodorants.
- Avoid wearing bright, flowered clothing.
- Avoid going barefoot and wearing sandals when outdoors.
- When gardening, watch for nests in trees, shrubs and flower beds.
- Be careful near swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses and trash containers.
- Be careful when operating outdoor equipment such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, etc., as these may provoke stinging insects.
Treatment for stings
Suggestions for treatment to insect stings for highly allergic people include:
- Immediately remove the stinger by scraping it with a fingernail or firm object. Do not squeeze the stinger, which may force the venom into the body.
- Always carry epinephrine for self-injections. Make sure you and those close to you know how to use them.
- With severe symptoms, get emergency treatment as soon as possible.
Talk with your healthcare provider about getting an epinephrine self-injector if you don't already have one. It is important to consult with your physician regarding the need for allergy evaluation. Patients may need treatment plans, including immunotherapy or insect-related allergy shots.