Crystal Lake residents seek treatment for insect bite allergies
It’s estimated over two million Americans are allergic to insects. Symptoms vary widely.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports three percent of adults and less than one percent of children have severe, deadly reactions to insect venom.
There are generally two types of reactions brought on by insects:
- Localized – When an insect bites you, its saliva can react with your skin, causing small, itchy lumps or fluid-filled, intensely itchy wheals that can persist for weeks or months, especially after a tick bite. When an insect stings, its venom can cause swelling and blistering that may extend up an arm or leg.
- Generalized or systemic – While severe reactions can be produced by insect bites, stings are more likely to cause itchy, blotchy rashes throughout the body; swelling extending to the lips, tongue, throat and even airway; stomach cramps and nausea; and rapid heartbeat, lightheadedness and wheezing.
To treat a localized reaction, in many cases you’ll need:
- Antihistamines – May be prescribed or bought OTC, these drugs block the chemical histamine, which is released to fight off the allergen the immune system deems an invader, setting off your symptoms.
- Painkillers and cold compress – These drugs and the application of cold to the site can reduce swelling and help with any discomfort following the bite or sting.
To treat a generalized reaction, consider the three A’s – adrenalin, avoidance, and allergist:
- Adrenalin – At Advanced Allergy & Asthma Associates and Food Allergy Center of Illinois, we urge the use of portable, injectable epinephrine devices (such as EpiPen) for those with severe reactions. While such injections can be lifesavers, in emergencies you’ll need to call 9-1-1 as adrenalin can wear off or may not be adequate on its own to treat life-threatening symptoms.
- Avoidance – The best strategy is prevention. According to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, yellow jacket wasps, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets, and fire ants are responsible for most serious reactions. It’s good to know what these bugs look like and know their natural habitats (i.e. hornets and wasps nest in bushes, trees and under roofs). You can minimize your chances of getting stung or bit by not wearing strongly scented perfumes, colognes, hair products, or bright clothing, which attract stinging insects searching for nectar.
- Allergist – This is where Drs. Askenazi, and Hahn come into play. They can start you on course of treatment, whereby a small amount of the venom is injected. For about 12 to 24 weeks during the buildup phase of this immunotherapy process, a gradually increasing dose of the toxin is administered. A maintenance phase follows for the next three to five years or longer. The idea is to get your body used to the substance it formerly fought as harmful. Your immune system, in turn, tolerates the substance that normally prompts the reaction and symptoms.
With the exception of fire ants, the insects mentioned above are not exotic in our corner of Chicagoland. You shouldn’t live with the fear that simply passing a flowery bush will result in your being stung by a honeybee. We can get you on a course of treatment that’s right for your insect bite allergies in Crystal Lake by calling our office at 847 888 8802.