Midnite Bee-Beekeeper's: Article ARTICLES Patient Information on Allergic Reaction Patient Information on Allergic Reaction What Happened? You were stung by an insect and reacted very severely to the venom that it injected. This response, called "anaphylaxis", is the most severe form of an allergic reaction and can result in any combination of these symptoms: 1) Dizziness 2) Weakness or unconsciousness 3) Throat tightness or difficulty breathing 4) Itching 5) Hives of the skin 6) Generalized swelling The reaction usually starts minutes after the sting and can be life- threatening and occasionally fatal. Your reaction, while severe, is not unusual. Two to five million Americans have experienced similar reactions as a result of such stings. It's important that you know that your reaction can reoccur if you're stung again, but it can be prevented with proper medical care. What Should I Do Now? Consult an allergist. If you've had a frightening reaction to an insect sting, it's important to talk to an allergist, a doctor who is a specialist in diagnosing and treating allergic disease. If the allergist determines that you are allergic to insect stings, there is a 60% chance you will have another severe reaction if re-stung. But it is important to know that serious anaphylactic reactions to insect stings can be prevented from occurring by a treatment known as venom immunotherapy. Immunotherapy Immunotherapy (preventive immunization) to insect stings involves administering gradually increasing doses of venom that stimulates the - immune system to become resistant to the allergic reaction. In a matter of weeks, people who previously lived under the constant threat of severe reactions to insect stings can go about leading normal lives. Venom immunotherapy is an effective treatment for stinging insect allergy, but individual patients should be carefully evaluated by an allergist before a decision for treatment is reached. Some reactions are not allergic in nature at all, and in those cases immunotherapy is not indicated. Avoidance If you are allergic to any of the stinging insects, your doctor can explain preventive steps to protect yourself from locations, situations, and clothing that attract these insects. In general, good common sense on avoidance measures can reduce thd incidence of an insect sting. Epinephrine Before the immunotherapy takes effect, your doctor may instruct you to carry a form of epinephrine for selfadministration. You would be instructed on how to inject this matenal into an appropriate site, such as your thigh, in emergencies. It is often effective in slowing or stopping the reaction, but is not always enough. In some cases, intravenous fluids, oxygen, and other treatments are necessary. The epinephrine might also be ineffective in combination with certain other medications, and over time many patients tend to forget to carry it with them. For these reasons, epinephrine should not be seen as an alternative for venom immunotherapy. Conclusion While stinging insect allergy is amajorprob lem, much of the risk and fear of reoccurrence can be eliminated wid immunotherapy treatment and basi avoidance measures. Patients wh have had a severe reaction to a stin should be evaluated by an allergis for correct diagnosis and treatmen of the allergic condition. For names of allergists in you area, please call the American Academy of Allergy's Referral line at (800) 822- 2762 or th American College of Allergy (800) 842-7777. A patient education service provided by ALK LABORATORIES, INC. Milford, Connecticut 06460 (203) 877-4782