While most people would find insect stings to be a painful annoyance at the very least, there are those individuals who develop a severe allergic reaction them, to the point of being life threatening. According to statistics, over half a million people are rushed to emergency health facilities each year due to simple insect stings, and at least fifty percent of the victims die from hypersensitivity to the venom.
Causes of an Insect Sting Allergic Reaction
The venom from an insect sting would normally cause some localized pain and swelling in the affected area. Most stings are not toxic, but if a person is abnormally sensitive to insect venom, the body reacts in a way that often leads to complications. The immune system responds to the allergen and produces antibodies that release chemicals called histamines into the bloodstream. This causes dilation of blood vessels and swelling of tissues that may manifest in the mucous membrane, smooth muscles, and the skin. These chemicals actually injure the surrounding cells in the affected area.
Symptoms of an Insect Sting Allergic Reaction
Once a person is stung, the immediate indications would be itchiness, pain, redness, and swelling on the sting site. However, if an allergic reaction were under way, the symptoms would quickly spread to other parts of the body. Hives may break out throughout the body or the person’s face may swell. This is often followed by the onset of anaphylactic shock, which involves the following:
2. Stomach cramps
3. Wheezing cough
5. Difficulty in breathing or choking
6. Lower blood pressure
This serious condition requires immediate medical attention as most deaths occur within half an hour or less. If a person goes into anaphylactic shock due to an insect sting, emergency treatment involves an injection of epinephrine. This hormone remedy helps relax the air passageways and stimulate the heart. An antihistamine is also administered to neutralize the effects of the chemicals produced by the immune system during the allergic reaction.
A desensitization program is also available for people who have severe allergic reactions to insect stings. People undergoing this program will get a series of venom injections, administered by an allergy specialist. The venom dosage is systematically increased until the body develops a tolerance or immunity to insect stings.
The most practical way to prevent going into shock because of an allergic reaction to insect venom is to avoid contact with insects. Keep your home and surroundings insect-free by spraying pesticide. You can hire a pest control specialist to do this, or do it yourself using commercially available sprays.
If a bee or wasp comes near you, slowly move away and avoid sudden movements that may incite an attack. Never attempt to swat at it because once aggravated, these insects release a chemical into the air, the odor of which signals other members of the colony to attack.
If you already know that you are highly allergic to insect venom, always carry an emergency kit with antihistamine tablets, for situations when you are inevitably faced with insect stings.