Arizona Asthma and Allergy Institute can evaluate for insect allergy when appropriate. A normal response is small local inflammation at the site of the insect bite or sting that may have some itching involved. However, an allergic reaction can occur in many individuals if their immune system is sensitized to that particular insect venom.
Allergic reactions to insects can be separated into 2 categories:
Large Local Reactions
Swelling at the site of bite or sting that can be several centimeters in diameter. This generally peaks in size 48 hours later and can persist for 5 to 10 days.
These reactions can have large local reactions but also spread beyond the site of insect bite or sting and could cause hives anywhere on the body, respiratory difficulty, throat swelling and possibly anaphylactic shock (drop in blood pressure).
Common insects which cause reactions
Bee stings are the most common insect allergy that can cause life threatening (anaphylactic) reactions. Some individuals may be allergic to bees causing large local reactions but may not be at risk of systemic reactions. If anyone has had a history of a systemic reaction to bee stings then skin testing is very important to determine their risk. In appropriate candidates, allergy shots to bee venom are 98% protective to prevent future allergic reactions to bee stings. If there is a risk of future systemic reactions and allergy shots are not done then having an epinephrine auto-injector available for potential life threatening reactions is extremely important.
Allergy to ants can range from large local reactions to systemic and potentially life threatening reactions. There as various species of ants but the most allergic type are fire ants. Individuals at risk of systemic reactions should have an epinephrine auto-injector available. Fire ant venom immunotherapy (allergy shots) is available to protect those individuals at risk of systemic reactions. Management of this allergy will be directed based on testing and determined risk.
One of the most common insects to bite us are mosquitos. Most individuals are not allergic to mosquitos and will have an expected small local inflammation with itching but some can be allergic and will have large local reactions. Systemic reactions have been reported but are rare.