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AAAAI Offers Advice on Stinging Insect Allergies

MILWAUKEE , As summer approaches, you may notice an increase in the number of insects buzzing around outside. People with an allergy to stinging insects will want to take extra precautions this time of year. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), up to 5% of Americans are at risk for a severe, potentially life- threatening allergic reaction from insect stings.

'For most people, getting stung results in temporary pain, redness and swelling at the site of the sting. However, for those with allergies to insect stings, it can result in a sudden, severe reaction called anaphylaxis. This may be fatal if not treated immediately,' said Clifford M. Tepper, MD, FAAAAI. 'Symptoms of anaphylaxis to watch for include: itching and hives over large areas of the body, separate or away from the site of the sting; swelling in the throat or tongue; difficulty breathing; dizziness; stomach cramps; nausea and diarrhea. If you suffer from a stinging insect allergy, you should take extra precautions to avoid being stung.'

Unfortunately, most people are not aware they are allergic to insect stings until after experiencing a reaction. An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to the insect venom. When this happens, an allergic person's body produces an allergic substance called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody, which reacts with the venom. This triggers the release of histamine and other chemicals that cause allergic symptoms and, in the most severe of cases, a rapid fall in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and sometimes even death.

Because a severe and sometimes fatal reaction can occur, it is important to know what common stinging insects look like. The most common stinging insects in the United States include:

Yellow jackets -- black with yellow markings, found in various climates
Honeybees -- a round, fuzzy body covered with dark brown and yellow markings
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