Many of us, when asked, regard summer as our favorite time of year. Baseball games, picnics, family vacations and the like all contribute to the fond memories we carry throughout our lives. If you are like me, summer is when you may have been stung for the first time. Not fun!
For most of us it’s not such a big deal. You may have developed redness and swelling at the site. Mom kissed you, put a penny on it and sent you back to play. Yet, people who are allergic to stinging insect venom are at risk for a much more serious reaction. This life-threatening reaction is called anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis).
Understanding the differences between a normal reaction and an allergic reaction can bring peace of mind to all you moms out there. It is also important to have an accurate diagnosis so you can manage your child’s condition and be prepared for an emergency.
An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system overreacts to an allergen. In stinging insect allergies, the allergen is the venom injected from a sting. Most of the serious reactions are caused by five types of insects:
1. Yellow jackets– Yellow Jackets are black with yellow markings. They can be found in various climates. Their nests are usually located underground, but can be found in the walls of buildings, cracks in masonry or in woodpiles.
2. Wasps– Wasps are slender with black, brown, red and yellow markings. They live in a circular comb under eaves, behind shutters or in shrubs and woodpiles.
3. Hornets– Hornets are black or brown with white, orange or yellow markings. Their nests are gray or brown and are usually found in trees.
4. Honeybees– Honeybees have round, fuzzy bodies with dark brown and yellow markings. They can be found in honeycombs in trees, old tires, structures or other partially protected sites. Many people don’t mind having them around. And many are starting to keep these hardworking insects around for their delicious raw organic honey. Those with serious allergies, though, can’t take the risk.
5. Fire Ants– Fire ants are reddish-brown ants living in large mounds, mostly in warmer climates. They attack with little warning, inserting highly concentrated toxins that cause burning and pain.
Knowledge goes a long way to prevent an incident. Unless you have an active hive that is being aggressively protected, these stinging insects will more than likely leave you alone. Those with severe allergies should be on heightened alert only because they have more severe consequences to contend with. Be careful and have fun!