Stinging Insect Allergy

How To Avoid Stinging Insects

bee on an orange flower

It's summer which means picnics and fun in the sun. This is also the time of year to be more mindful of stinging insects, like bees, wasps and ants.

Insect stings may cause pain, itching, redness and swelling at the site of the sting. In some people, insect stings can cause anaphylaxis and be life-threating. Symptoms may include two or more of the following: itching and hives, swelling in the throat or tongue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea. In severe cases, a rapid fall in blood pressure may result in shock and loss of consciousness.

If you have a serious reaction to an insect sting, seek emergency medical care. After treatment, make an appointment with an Allergy Partners allergist to discuss stinging insect testing and treatment options.

Bees and wasps are not inherently aggressive and usually only sting in defense of their nest. Follow these tips to help prevent insect stings:

  • If stinging insects are nearby, stay calm and move slowly away.
  • Nests around your home should be removed by a trained professional.
  • Individuals with stinging insect allergy should avoid activities that may disturb a colony, such as mowing the lawn or pruning a hedge.
  • Be careful when cooking or eating outdoors.
  • Beware of insects inside canned drinks or straws.
  • Keep food covered until eaten.
  • Wear close-toed shoes outdoors. Avoid going barefoot.
  • If large numbers of insects begin flying around you or you are being stung, cover your mouth and nose and run from the area and seek shelter in a building or enclosed vehicle. Stinging insects tend to target the facial area, which can quickly produce panic and disorientation in the victim.
  • There is no empiric evidence that wearing brightly colored clothing or perfume attracts stinging insects.
  • Attacking bees and wasps are strongly attracted to dark colors, so white or light-colored clothing that covers most of the body should confer some advantage.
  • There are no effective repellent products.

By Dr. Kelli Rose

Allergy Partners of the California Central Coast