Insect Allergies: When to Get Tested

Monday, May 23, 2016

Questions over potentially fatal allergic reactions persist following the recent death of a Tampa father within an hour of being stung by a swarm of yellow jackets. Unaware of his existing allergy to bee stings, the man was ill-prepared to combat against the devastating effects of their attack, which included severe pain, anaphylaxis and death.

While allergy-related fatalities from bee stings only occur around 50 times per year in the United States, it’s important for everyone to recognize the signs and symptoms of allergic reactions, according to G. Weyman Price, MD, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at Watson Clinic’s South location in Lakeland.

“There are strict recommendations in play when it comes to testing for insect allergies, because the potential for a false positive diagnosis is so high,” Dr. Price explains. “Establishing a history of worsening or suspicious reactions is oftentimes the key. For example, if swelling or hives occur following an insect sting in a child, then an allergy test is not immediately advised, but if these reactions become more severe and widespread after subsequent stings, you should visit an allergist for proper testing. However, if an adult develops generalized hives after a sting, testing is recommended.”

Of course, Dr. Price adds, people should remain aware of the symptoms that require immediate emergency medical attention. “These include a host of serious internal reactions such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, vomiting, fainting or trouble breathing after a sting.” Emergency 911 services should be called in the event of any of these severe allergic reactions.

Meanwhile, your primary care physician can help you determine if you require additional follow-up with a specialized allergist if you suspect a possible fire ant or flying insect allergy.

For more information on allergy testing recommendations, or to schedule an appointment with a member of our Allergy department, call 863-680-7486.


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