Insect stings and bites can be painful, itchy annoyances. However, some people experience much more than a small bump and some itching. Individuals with stinging or biting insect allergies can experience a wide range of potentially life-threatening symptoms following an insect bite! If you believe you fall into this category, contact Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology for an appointment today!
The most common culprits of insect allergies include yellow jackets, honeybees, bumblebees, paper wasps, hornets, fire ants, and mosquitoes. While a localized immune system response to an insect bite or sting is expected and normal, some individuals can be severely allergic to the venom of certain insects. Severe allergic reactions as a result of insect bites or stings can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction in which bodily itching and hives, swelling of the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, abdominal pain, rapid (but weak) pulse, and/or a lowered blood pressure can occur.
Diagnosis of an Insect Allergy
Some of the most important diagnostic components your physician requires include detailed information about previous stings, the number of stings in one episode, what symptoms appeared, how quickly those symptoms appeared, how long they lasted after the fact, if you received emergency treatment, etc. After a complete review of your medical, symptom, and family history, your allergist will perform a physical examination. With this information, your doctor will recommend testing options, including skin and blood tests.
A skin prick test is typically the first testing option your allergist will recommend. This test involves placing a small amount of the allergen (in this case, insect venom) on the skin. The area will then be scratched with a sterile plastic applicator to make sure the potential allergen goes into the skin. If this test does not provide conclusive results, your allergist will then perform an intradermal skin test. An intradermal skin test is performed by injecting a small amount of insect venom just under the skin with a needle. Both of these tests require observation for 15-20 minutes after application for red, raised, itchy bumps (called wheals). The size of the wheal correlates to your sensitivity to a particular insect venom.
Additional testing may be ordered if your allergist deems it necessary, typically in the form of blood testing. However, blood testing alone may also be necessary if the patient is very young and cannot handle the multiple pricks skin test requires. Blood testing alone may also be necessary if patients have a skin condition or are taking a medication that may interfere with skin test results. A blood test involves obtaining some blood and testing it for the level of antibodies that are specific to certain types of insect venom. These antibodies (immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies) are produced by the immune system in response to foreign substances that the immune system believes may be harmful to the body. High levels of IgE antibodies in the blood indicate an allergy.
Upon completion of your testing, your allergy specialist will be able to provide you with a diagnosis. Patients who have been found to have an insect allergy will be advised on avoidance, prevention, and treatment strategies. Avoidance and prevention may involve learning how to identify between different insects. Treatment may involve medication and a discussion on what to do should you be stung by an insect. You will likely be given an epinephrine self-injector to carry at all times in the event of an insect sting or bite. Another option Frontier Allergy Asthma and Immunology provides is for allergic patients to undergo insect venom immunotherapy. This can desensitize a patient’s immune system to insect venom, thereby preventing allergic reactions.
Next stepsIf you are interested in further discussion about your specific needs, Dr. Reshamwala is happy to see you and answer any questions you may have. Please call 512-382-1933 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment today! Book an appointment
Written by: Dr. Neha Reshamwala
NPI number: 1780874578
Page last reviewed: 03/20/21