Hymenoptera is the name for the order of insects that are stinging insects. This includes bees, fire ants, hornets, wasps and yellow jackets.
It is estimated that potentially life-threatening systemic reactions (called anaphylaxis) to insect stings occur in 0.4% to 0.8% of children and 3% of adults. In the United States, at least 40 deaths are attributed to Hymenoptera stings each year (Stinging insect hypersensitivity: A practice parameter update 2011. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Volume 127, Issue 4, Pages 852-854.e23).
This quiz will test your knowledge of stinging insect allergy and what to do in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
Answer a: Insects do not see the same spectrum of light that we do and so what we see as a flower pattern on clothing does not look like a flower to them.
Answer b: While all of the medicines listed may be used in someone having a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting, the only medicine that treats all the symptoms potentially associated with an allergic reaction to insects is epinephrine.
True: A severe allergic reaction may sometimes last hours. Epinephrine works quickly but may only last for 15 to 20 minutes. Therefore additional medical care may be required.
Answer d: All of these are recommended by national guidelines after experiencing a severe allergic reaction to an insect sting.
Answer c: Anaphylaxis means severe allergic reaction. The other terms are technical words for some of the symptoms associated with anaphylaxis. Bronchospasm means wheezing. Urticaria means hives. Hypotension means low blood pressure.
False: Your allergist/immunologist can test you for your insect sting reaction. If your tests are positive, venom immunotherapy (allergy shots) may be started. Venom immunotherapy has have been shown to almost completely eliminate the chance of a severe reaction with future stings.
Answer g: If you have these symptoms after an insect sting, inject epinephrine immediately and get emergency medical treatment. After receiving this medical treatment, make an appointment with an allergist / immunologist. With proper testing, your allergist can diagnose your condition and help you learn how to stay safe in the future.
Answer b: Most people do not get worse with each sting. It is important to note that people can get stung many times in their lives with no reaction and then have a severe allergic reaction to a sting. Once the person is allergic, there is a high chance of a severe reaction happening again. A reaction could happen one time and not another because of differences in the insects or differences within our bodies.
Answer a: Allergy tests show when a person has allergic antibodies to insect venoms, but cannot predict how bad a reaction will be. Also, allergy tests can show positive in people who do not react to stings and so cannot be used as a screening test. So allergy tests for insect stings should be done only in people who have had severe allergic reactions. The tests are used to confirm the allergy when someone has a severe reaction, and to identify which insects someone is allergic to.
Answer a: Delay in administering epinephrine. Prompt use of epinephrine in the upper outer thigh is the only therapy that is effective in reducing the risk of fatal anaphylaxis. Delaying the administration of epinephrine increases the risk of death.
Answer d: Blood levels of epinephrine are much higher and achieved much faster when administered within the muscle in the upper, outer thigh.
Learn more about stinging insect allergy symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and management.