According to UCLA, about 10% of people who are stung by a venomous insect will have some type of allergic reaction. Allergic reactions to venom are usually mild and localized to the area of the bite or sting, but some can be very serious or even fatal. That’s why it is so important for everyone, but especially those with known allergies, to be cautious when exposed to insects.
In this post, we’ll list Florida’s most active venomous insects, go over the types of insect venom and the types of allergic reactions they can cause, review what to do if you are stung or bitten, and talk about how to prevent stings and bites in the first place.
Florida’s Top Insect Offenders
Floridians are not strangers to the creepy crawlies that seem to love our state’s subtropical climate. However, some insects are definitely more dangerous for allergy sufferers than others. Here’s our list of Florida’s most common venomous stinging/biting insects:
- Flying insects including wasps, hornets, yellow jackets
- Ants, including the fire ant and velvet ant
- Wheel bug
- Blister beetles
- Caterpillars, including the puss, saddleback, lo moth, and hag moth varieties
Types of Insect Venom
Not all insect venom is the same. Insect venom can be categorized based on its effects on the victim. We typically categorize insect venom as:
- Vesicating toxins cause blisters
- Neurotoxins attack the central nervous system of the victim
- Cytolytic or hemolytic toxins destroy tissue
- Hemorrhagic toxins stop blood from clotting properly
Types of Allergic Reactions Caused by Insect Venom
Most people who are stung or bitten by a venomous insect have no reaction other than momentary pain and discomfort from the sting/bite. However, some people can have an allergic reaction to the insect’s venom. This allergic reaction can be anything from mild, localized discomfort that persists for days to anaphylaxis. If left untreated, insect bites or stings that cause allergic reactions can be fatal. In fact, in 96% of fatalities from insect venom, an allergic reaction is the cause of death.
What to Do if You’re Stung or Bitten
If you or someone you know is bitten or stung by an insect, it’s important to be vigilant about monitoring for potential symptoms of an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis and death can occur quickly, so prompt attention is required.
Monitor for Symptoms
For anyone who does not require immediate medical care, monitor, for the following symptoms after an insect bite or sting:
- Acute swelling
- Abdominal pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mental confusion
- The feeling of impending doom
- Blue skin
- Blue lips
- Blue fingernails or toenails
- Drop in blood pressure
- Fainting/Loss of consciousness
- Loss of continence
If you notice any of these symptoms in the sting/bite victim, contact medical help immediately. Venom allergies can progress rapidly from slight inflammation to anaphylaxis, so do not hesitate to seek medical attention if symptoms emerge.
How to Prevent Insect Stings and Bites
Like with so many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing insect bites and stings from happening in the first place is always preferable. While some people are just inherently more exposed to insects than others (i.e. people who work outside), everyone can take precautions to avoid insect bites and stings:
- Wear long sleeves and pants while working outside
- Don’t mow grass or work on the lawn when you see flying insects feeding/pollinating
- Wear closed-toed shoes while outside
- Don’t leave sweet foods and drinks lying around, such as in trash bins (insects typically LOVE sugary things)
- Use bug spray when appropriate
- Place plants and flowers that repel insects (i.e. marigolds) around outdoor living areas
- Keep outdoor areas clean and tidy
- Avoid using personal hygiene products with heavy fragrances
Venom Allergy Testing and Treatment in Tampa Bay
If you suspect you may have an insect venom allergy, or you had a reaction to an insect bite/sting, Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Associates of Tampa Bay can help. We offer a full array of allergy testing services, including venom hypersensitivity testing. Once your venom triggers are identified, we can customize a treatment plan for you, including venom immunotherapy shots. To get started, call us at (813) 971-9743 or contact us online today!