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Insect bites and stings

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:45 pm
Most people aren't allergic to insect stings or bites, so you should recognize the difference between an allergic reaction and a normal reaction. Although the severity of an insect sting reaction varies from person to person, a normal reaction will result in pain, swelling, and redness just around the sting location. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, itching and swelling in areas away from the sting, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing, a hoarse voice, and swelling of the tongue. An even more severe reaction, called anaphylaxis (an-uh-phi-LAX-is), can occur within minutes after the sting and could be life threatening. Symptoms may include dizziness, a drop in blood pressure, and unconsciousness. The majority of insect stings come from wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, bees, and ants. People who have experienced an allergic reaction to an insect sting have a 60 percent chance of a similar or worse reaction if stung again. If you suffer from insect allergies, try to avoid situations where you're likely to be stung, such as yard work or nature hiking. Wear protective clothing, avoid scented cosmetics, and consider carrying a special emergency kit available by prescription. Try to wear white clothing when outdoors, because insects are least attracted to this color. If you can't avoid insects, long-term allergy injections are also available from an allergist.
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