Allergies are a fairly common type of medical condition that causes the body’s immune system to react to a particular substance.
In the United States, about 50 million people experience a spate of different allergies every year.
While these reactions aren’t necessarily curable, medical procedures such as immunotherapy treatment may help certain individuals manage their symptoms effectively.
One of the more common types of allergies is insect sting allergies, which are triggered by stings from various insects. Today, around 5% of the American population is allergic to insects and nearly 90 to 100 people die from anaphylactic shock caused by insect stings every year.
Fortunately, immunotherapy treatment may help people with insect allergies control their symptoms and reactions. In this post, we take a closer look at these allergies and how immunotherapy may alleviate them.
Symptoms and Triggers
Insect sting allergies are caused by the venom from insect stings, which is recognized by the body’s immune system as a harmful foreign substance. In response, the body produces antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that trigger inflammatory reactions.
In most cases, a bite or a sting from an insect may simply cause minor symptoms such as:
- Redness around the affected area
Sometimes, while mild, these reactions may affect other parts of the body—for instance, the swelling may affect an entire limb and it could last for more than a day. This may simply be a normal reaction to an insect sting or bite and not the result of an allergy.
As such, some of the more serious symptoms of an allergy include:
- Swelling in the tongue and throat
- Diarrhea and vomiting
- Anaphylactic shock
Anaphylaxis, in particular, is a very severe reaction to an allergy and it may warrant a visit to the emergency room.
Today, the three most common families of insects that trigger allergic reactions are:
- Vespids such as wasps and hornets
- Ants (usually harvester ants and fire ants)
Insects like mosquitoes and bed bugs may also cause allergic reactions but these cases are rare. What’s more, a person may only be allergic to one kind of insect; for example, a person might only be allergic to stings from bees but ant bites won’t cause an allergic reaction.
Immunotherapy involves exposing a person to the allergen they’re sensitive to. Over time the dose of allergens the patient is exposed to increases, encouraging the immune system to become less sensitive to a particular allergen and potentially reducing allergic reactions.
For insect venom, immunotherapy may involve giving the patient a small dose of venom from the insect they’re allergic to via an allergy shot. The venom is injected under the skin.
At the start of the treatment, they may receive just a single dose a week, with the amount increasing successively, over time. After around four to six months’ worth of weekly allergen shots, they receive the maximum dose of the allergen. This is called the maintenance dose.
The maintenance dose may be administered every four weeks for the next four to six months. After a year has passed and allergic reactions have shown some improvement, the maintenance dose may be administered once every six to eight weeks for a period of three to five years.
Patients may need to continue taking the maintenance dose to keep their allergies under control; stopping the dose may lead to the allergy returning.
Immunotherapy is usually recommended for individuals who have severe insect allergies and the course of treatment may differ from person to person.
Immunotherapy treatment may help you manage your allergies better
Allergies can be very inconvenient; they can not only get in the way of daily life but also prove life-threatening in certain instances. Insect allergies, in particular, can be difficult to deal with, especially if you’re living in a location where insects are abundant or during warm summer months, when insects are likely to be out in full force.
With immunotherapy, you may be able to find a certain form of relief for your symptoms and try to reduce the intensity or even the onset of allergic reactions.