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Various insects can cause allergic reactions. Wasps, honey bees, hornets, yellow jackets and ants are the insects most likely to cause strong allergic reactions. Some biting insects (mosquitoes, flies, lice, kissing bugs and fleas) can cause Allergies as well because they inject saliva to thin the blood when they bite. People rarely dont have an allergic reaction to misquito bites.Finally, some caterpillars are covered with hairs that contain a substance irritating to human skin and this can sometimes cause allergic reactions.

In general there are three kinds of reactions to insect stings. The first kind, normal reactions, involve pain, redness, swelling, itching, and warmth at the site of the sting. The second kind, toxic reactions, are the result of multiple stings. Five hundred stings within a short time are considered likely to kill because of the quantity of venom involved. As few as ten stings within a short time can cause serious illness. Symptoms of toxic reactions include muscle cramps, headache, fever, and drowsiness.

Allergic reactions are the third type. They may involve some of the same symptoms as toxic reactions, but may be triggered by a single sting or a minute amount of venom. Any non-local reaction to a single sting should be considered allergic until proven otherwise.

Allergic reactions may be local or systemic. An allergic reaction is considered local if it involves only the stung limb, regardless of the amount of swelling. A slight systemic reaction may involve hives and itching on areas of the body distant from the sting site as well as feelings of anxiety and being run down. A moderate systemic reaction may include any of the above plus at least two of edema (swelling), sneezing, chest constriction, abdominal pain, dizziness, and nausea. A severe systemic reaction has the symptoms already described plus at least two of difficulty in swallowing, labored breathing, hoarseness, thickened speech, weakness, confusion, and feelings of impending disaster.

The most serious symptoms are the closing of airways and shock (anaphylaxis) since they can be fatal if not treated quickly and effectively. Allergic reactions may begin within ten to twenty minutes after the sting or they may be delayed. Usually, the sooner the reaction starts, the more severe it will be.

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Q: How do you know if you have insect allergies?
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