Insect Sting Allergies
Insect stings can be painful, but are harmless for most
In the UK, some individuals are plagued by prominent reactions to bee and/or wasp stings. It is normal for most of us to find this painful, and some, have large areas of localised swelling. This affects 9.3-38.7% of the population. This can be extremely uncomfortable and large doses of antihistamines may be helpful. However, this is not harmful.
Mosquito bites can be very troublesome for many individuals, but they tend not to cause anaphylactic reactions. If someone has large bumps that arise, then it would be sensible to carry once daily antihistamines with them, so that the bites can be treated as soon as they arise. A weak steroid cream such as hydrocortisone 1%, may also help take the inflammation away. This can be bought over the counter.
If there is any concern about infection, a review with a health practitioner should be sought.
Do I have a Venom Allergy?
True allergic reactions to bees or wasps is thought to affect 3%-7.5% of adults.
It is more common in adults than children and usually affects those who have been stung multiple times. Keeping bees is a risk factor for this occurring.
When someone has an allergic reaction, they may experience:
- Swelling in areas other than directly at the sting
- Hives (urticaria) across the body
- Anaphylaxis Symptoms – breathing difficulties, dizziness, collapse
Identifying the cause of Insect Allergies
Individuals who have had a reaction are not always sure whether they have reacted to bees or wasps. They look very similar to each other.
As part of an assessment, a blood test will be taken to check the IgE to both bee and wasp to see which is raised has not been sensitised (exposed) to the venom and therefore it does not trigger a response. Reactions occur after second or subsequent stings.
If you think you may have an insect allergy, or want to find out which insects you’re allergic to, book an appointment with Dr Helen today.
Treatment for Insect Allergies
Where possible, as with any allergy, it is always sensible to try to avoid exposure to bee and wasp stings. The chances of this can be improved by wearing long clothing when out and insect repellent.
For those that struggle with large, localised reactions, carrying a once daily antihistamine on your person is sensible. Taking a dose immediately will help minimise reactions.
For those who have had anaphylactic reactions, two adrenaline auto-injectors should be prescribed by your GP and carried with you at all times. Please make sure you ask the company for a training pen and ensure you know how to use it.
For anyone who has had anaphylaxis, a referral to a specialist is always recommended. Dr Helen is able to carry out this assessment to define the risk someone has from a bee and /or wasp sting allergy.
If you have had anaphylaxis, it is likely that a referral to a NHS hospital will be recommended for immunotherapy (desensitisation) to bee / wasp sting.
Immunotherapy is given in the form of subcutaneous injections. It is done in a hospital setting because of the small risk of anaphylaxis from the treatment. Treatment is usually continued for three years but will significantly reduce the severe symptoms from a bee or wasp sting.