Home is where we feel the safest – until stinging insects move in. Next thing you know, you feel the sting of an angry insect that doesn’t want a neighbor.
For most people it’s a painful annoyance, but 0.8% of children and 3% of adults are allergic to insect stings from bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and fire ants. An allergic reaction can cause a serious medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
The good news for the other 96% of people is that insect stings are a short-lived reaction and can be treated.
Shelf Life of an Insect Sting
If you’re the victim of a stinging insect, you’ll know it right away. Even though you will most likely have a minor reaction from the venom, it will hurt immediately. Typically, the initial pain will give way to a burning sensation at the site. Soon thereafter, a rosy welt will form before a small white spot appears. You’ll likely experience swelling at the sting site, as venom kills blood cells.
The Mayo Clinic reports the pain and swelling of an insect sting will linger for a couple of hours. Your body will release histamine to combat the venom, and blood fluids will help flush to flush it out. For some of us there will be a moderate reaction with extreme redness and swelling at the sting site that lasts for a day or two.
If you suffer a moderate reaction, the symptoms can last for 5-10 days before resolving. If you have had a moderate reaction once you’re likely to have a similar reaction if you’re stung again.
Building Tolerance With Immunotherapy
If you’re among the unlucky people who experience more than a few hours of discomfort after an insect sting, you may want to consider venom immunotherapy. These specialized treatments can help you build a tolerance to the venom so that the reaction to a sting is more mild.
It’s a precaution that specialists such as Dr. David Golden recommend. Dr. Golden, an author and a fellow at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says, “While it does not always cure insect sting allergy, venom immunotherapy, a form of allergy shots, can almost always prevent severe reactions to stings. It usually provides long-lasting immunity even after the treatment is stopped.”
Theodore Freeman, a specialist at the San Antonio Asthma and Allergy Clinic, agrees. He and a number of collegues have researched the use of venom skin testing to determine if a person has an allergy that needs to be treated. If you’re considering immunotherapy, it’s best to determine which type of insect is likely to cause you an adverse reaction. This is important because venom immunotherapy involves injecting a specific venom into the patient so that they’re able to build a tolerance to it.
Venom immunology is not a repellant, and it certainly won’t cure your allergy to stings. What venom therapy does is dial back the severity of the reaction.
There is a slight risk involved with venom immunology. Undergoing this type of treatment will cause a mild allergic reaction in some patients. A very small percentage may have a serious reaction after treatment.
Before getting venom immunology treatments you’ll need to visit a local allergy doctor. The doctor can test you for allergies and explain what to expect after treatment. It usually takes a couple of months for the treatment to take effect. Once it does, you’ll need to have an annual visit with the physician for booster shots, which may be needed for as long as five years. Even then, you may need to continue to visit the allergist after the treatment is over.
Taking Precautions Against Insect Stings
If you choose to undergo venom immunology it’s important to take additional precautions. Start by using bug spray whenever you’re outdoors. Insect repellents will keep the bugs away, but make sure to use it carefully.
The FDA cautions that products with more than 10% DEET or eucalyptus oil should never be used on children under the age of three – especially on babies. Special precautions also have to be taken when using insect repellent while pregnant.
When outdoors, you can reduce your risk of getting stung by covering up. Wear gloves and close-toed shoes anytime you’re working in the yard. It’s also best to wear loose, breathable pants and a long-sleeve shirt to protect against insects and sun exposure.
Of course, the professionals at Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can also keep yard pests from becoming a painful problem. Our expert technicians know how to safely remove bee hives, wasp nests and fire ant mounds, allowing your family to enjoy the outdoors year-round.