Yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets, and fire ants can all be significant threats to those who enjoy the outdoors. Most people who are stung by one of these insects develop redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the sting. However, a small number of people may actually be allergic to these insects. Symptoms of a severe reaction may include widespread itching and hives, swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramping, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Rarely, patients may even experience shock and loss of consciousness, which may be fatal. If you experience any of these severe symptoms, you should seek emergency medical treatment right away. Following this treatment, a referral to an allergist can help you to learn how to stay safe in the future.
If a stinging insect is spotted, remain calm and slowly move a safe distance away from it. Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing. Wear closed-toe shoes outdoors and avoid going barefoot. Be careful around food outdoors, including soda and juice, as the smell of food can attract insects. Keep food covered until eaten and watch for insects inside straws or canned drinks.
Beyond insect avoidance, patients with a history of insect allergy should carry auto-injectable epinephrine and know when and how to use it. An allergist can confirm your allergy through proper testing and offer the best form of treatment. Insect venom allergy shots are a very effective option for most patients.