When warm weather arrives, we often find ourselves enjoying the great outdoors. Along with that comes the possibility of insect stings – and the risk of a life-threatening allergic reaction for people with insect venom allergy.

Allergist David Golden, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, recently presented an insect venom webinar for Allergy & Asthma Network and shared insight in how to prevent and treat an allergic reaction.

If you’re stung…

What signs and symptoms would signal you may be having a life-threatening reaction, or anaphylaxis?

Adults tend to experience swelling and hives with dizziness, low blood pressure and wheezing. Children tend to experience hives and swelling, with more skin symptoms. Additional signs may include throat tightness and a raspy voice.

How do you know if you’re allergic? 

First, see a board-certified allergist for a diagnosis and testing. The allergist will take a detailed history and talk to you about any previous stings. There is a skin or serum test for Venom-IgE and other tests that may be performed.

What is the treatment for a life-threatening reaction? 

There is one medication for anaphylaxis and that is epinephrine. Your allergist will determine if you should carry an epinephrine auto-injector with you at all times to treat an insect sting.

If you have a positive venom skin test or serum test AND you have a history of a full body reaction to an insect sting, then you’re a candidate for immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves giving a patient a gradually increasing dose of insect venom to build tolerance and reduce sensitivity. Talk with your allergist about immunotherapy.

Reviewed by Neil MacIntyre, MD and Michael Mellon, MD