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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Allergies > Types of Allergies > Insect Sting Allergies

Insect Sting Allergy Treatment

How are allergic reactions to insect stings treated?

Insect sting allergy is treated in a two-step approach:

1) The first step is the emergency treatment of the symptoms of a serious reaction when they occur;

2) The second step is preventive treatment of the underlying allergy with venom immunotherapy.

Life-threatening allergic reactions can progress very rapidly and require immediate medical attention. Emergency treatment usually includes administration of certain drugs, such as epinephrine, antihistamines, and in some cases, corticosteroids, intravenous fluids, oxygen and other treatments. Once stabilized, these patients sometimes require close observation in the hospital overnight.

Injectable epinephrine (EpiPen® or TwinJect®) for self-administration is often prescribed as emergency rescue medication for treating an allergic reaction. People who have had previous allergic reactions and rely on epinephrine must remember to carry it with them at all times. Also, because one dose may not be enough to reverse the reaction, immediate medical attention following an insect sting is recommended.

What is venom immunotherapy?

The long-term treatment of insect sting allergy is called venom immunotherapy, a highly effective program administered by an allergist-immunologist, which can prevent future allergic reactions to insect stings.

Venom immunotherapy involves administering gradually increasing doses of venom to decrease a patient's sensitivity to the venom. This can reduce the risk of a future allergic reaction to that of the general population. In a matter of weeks to months, people who previously lived under the constant threat of severe reactions to insect stings can return to leading normal lives.

If you think you might be allergic to insect stings, ask your doctor to send a consult to an allergist-immunologist, a physician who is a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. Based on your past history and certain tests, the allergist will determine if you are a candidate for skin testing and immunotherapy.

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