Procedure

Insect Allergy Testing And Treatment- Allergy/Immunology

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Doctor: Allergist

What is insect allergy?

Insect allergy appears as swelling and redness at the site of an insect bite.

Tests:

Following tests are performed to diagnose allergy to insect venom:

  • Skin-prick test: In this test, a small quantity of a liquid comprising insect venom is placed on the back or forearm, which is then pricked with a tiny, sterile probe to permit the liquid to leak into the skin. If within 15-20 minutes, if any swelling, irritation or reddish spot forms, patient would be considered allergic to that particular substance.
  • Blood test: Patient’s blood sample is sent to a laboratory to test for the presence of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to insect venom.
  • Intradermal skin test: If the skin prick test is negative or inconclusive, an intradermal skin test might be done. During this test, a small quantity of venom extract is injected just underneath the skin. And if any redness, swelling, or irritation occurs within 15 minutes at the injection site, patient is considered allergic. This test is considered more precise than the skin-prick or blood tests in defining the presence of IgE antibodies.

Treatment:

It is recommended to visit hospital right away after a serious allergic reaction. Another approach for the allergy treatments include preventive treatments such as immunotherapy and avoidance of insect bites.

  • Immunotherapy: It is considered a long-term treatment but highly effective option. During immunotherapy, patient receives increasing doses of venom to decrease a patient’s sensitivity to the venom. This helps to decrease the risk of a future allergic reaction to that particular venom.
  • Avoidance of insect bites: Following are the possible ways to avoid insect bites:
    • Avoid wearing sandals, flip-flops, or walking barefoot in the grass.
    • Avoid wearing bright-colored clothes.
    • Avoid drinking from open beverage can as insects can get inside the sweet beverage can.
    • Do not hit a flying insect.
    • Be careful while gardening. Wear proper shoes, socks and gloves.
    • Avoid using sweet-smelling perfumes, deodorants and hair-sprays.
    • If eating outdoors, try to keep food covered at all times.
    • Keep car windows closed while driving.
    • Always keep prescribed medicines within reach at all times.

References:

  • https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/stinging-insect-allergy
  • https://acaai.org/allergies/types/insect-sting-allergy
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/insect-sting-allergy-tests#tests
About the Author:

Dr. Anand Lakhkar is a physician scientist from India. He completed his basic medical education from India and his postgraduate training in pharmacology from the United States. He has a MS degree in pharmacology from New York Medical College, a MS degree in Cancer/Neuro Pharmacology from Georgetown University and a PhD in Pharmacology from New York Medical College where he was the recipient of the Graduate Faculty Council Award for academic and research excellence.  His research area of expertise is in pulmonary hypertension, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular pharmacology.  He has multiple publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented his research at at prestigious conferences.

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