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Insects that are members of the Hymenoptera family most commonly cause allergic reactions. These include:
Usually, the reaction is short-lived, with redness and swelling followed by pain and itching. Generally, the reaction lasts only a few hours, although some may last longer.
For other people, however, allergic reactions to these insect stings can be life-threatening. This severe reaction is a medical emergency that can involve organ systems throughout the body. 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 in breathing and tightness in the chest
Stomach cramps, nausea, or diarrhea
Rapid fall in blood pressure
Loss of consciousness
Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue
Immediate medical attention is required.
Avoidance of insects is the best preventive measure. Suggestions include:
When outdoors, be cautious of drinking from open soft drink cans. Stinging insects are attracted to them, and can crawl inside.
Keep food covered when eating outdoors.
Avoid sweet-smelling perfumes, hairsprays, and deodorants.
Avoid wearing bright-colored clothing with flowery patterns.
Avoid going barefoot, and wear closed-toe shoes when walking in grassy areas.
When gardening, watch for nests in trees, shrubs, and flower beds.
Other areas in which to use caution: swimming pools, woodpiles, under eaves of houses, and trash containers.
Specific treatment for insect stings will be determined by your doctor based on:
Your age, overall health, and medical history
Extent of the reaction
Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
Expectations for the course of the reaction
Your opinion or preference
Suggestions for immediate treatment for highly allergic people, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, include:
When possible, immediately remove stinger, and scrape over the area with a fingernail. However, do not squeeze the area, which may force the venom into the body.
An emergency treatment kit should be kept nearby at all times. Talk with your doctor about what it should include.
Seek emergency care as soon as possible.