Patient Information on Allergic Reaction
You were stung by an insect and reacted very severely to the venom that it
This response, called "anaphylaxis", is the most severe form of an allergic
reaction and can result in any combination of these symptoms:
2) Weakness or unconsciousness
3) Throat tightness or difficulty breathing
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 (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.
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.
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