'Fatal Reaction'

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Are you at risk for a stinging insect allergy reaction?

Every summer millions of Americans experience the great outdoors and may not even realize that as many as 3-5 percent Americans have an allergy to stinging insects, which are reported to be on the rise. For the majority of us, a sting may cause localized pain, swelling and discomfort lasting for hours or a few days, however, there are a small number of individuals each year who experience a fatal reaction or a potentially life threatening allergic reaction, requiring treatment in an emergency room after an insect sting. Recently, a professional skateboarding champion after an allergic reaction to a wasp sting turned fatal.

Stinging Insect Allergy

If you have been sensitized and are "allergic" to the venom from five types of stinging insects, you are certainly at risk for a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as "anaphylaxis!" These stinging insects are: yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants.

Helpful Tips to Avoid Insect Stings

1. Stay away from stinging insects nests, when possible; 2. Remain calm and quiet and move slowly away from the stinging insect; 3. Avoid brightly colored clothing, scented personal products, colognes, etc. when outdoors; 4. Consider "closed toe" shoes; 5. Avoid loose-fitting clothing that may accidentally trap insects; 6. Use caution when eating outdoors, especially avoiding sweetened drinks; 7. Have a prescription epinephrine autoinjector (Twinject or Epi-Pen) available for immediate use, if needed; 8. Go to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology link for additional information on insect allergy, prevention and treatments at: http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/stinginginsect.stm.

Allergy testing and treatment for stinging insect allergy

Any person who has a history of a serious reaction to an insect sting needs to be properly evaluated by an expert, your local allergist/immunologist, can do in-office allergy tests to better understand if you are at risk of a serious allergic reaction. He/she will then develop an avoidance and management plan for a stinging insect allergy. Allergy shot therapy is a highly effective treatment and may help to reduce future reactions to insect stings in 97 percent of those patients receiving shots.

For additional information about insect allergy, strategies and preventing a reaction and finding an allergist/immunologist in your area, go to: www.allergyandasthmarelief.org

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett

is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.