Are You Allergic to Spiders and Bugs?

Spider and spider web

No one has what could be called a “good” reaction to a spider or insect bite — it’s almost always itchy, painful, or unsightly. However, there are some people for whom a sting from a bee, wasp, mosquito, ant, yellow jacket, or spider can result in more serious complications.

A bug bite is the result of an insect using their stinger to inject venom or draw blood (sometimes both). Because we’re so much larger than them, unless it’s a particularly poisonous type, these stings usually have minor effects — swelling, redness, itching, and sometimes pain. Your reaction depends on the type of insect as well as your immune system.

A small number of people (around 2 million in America) have an allergy to certain insects’ venom, even one which is normally harmless, and may have a toxic reaction. The amount of venom injected affects the reaction: in some cases, this bad reaction may set in after a series of bites, but in severe cases it may take only one.

A toxic reaction can remain localized, causing noticeable symptoms in the area around the bite, for example, a bite at the elbow causing the whole joint to swell. Although a localized reaction may look frightening because of the exaggerated appearance, and are usually at their worst after two days, they will generally clear up with home treatment within five to ten days. Toxic reactions can also cause headaches, muscle spasms, nausea, diarrhea, weakness, fever, and fatigue — consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

In rarer, more severe cases, an allergic reaction may occur quickly throughout the entire body, known as an anaphylactic reaction. Signs of this include difficulty breathing or swallowing, severe swelling of the face or throat, a rapid pulse or change in blood pressure, dizziness, hives, and behavioral changes like restlessness, agitation, and anxiety. An allergic reaction can be serious and life-threatening, so call for emergency help right away.

If you know, or discover, that you have an allergy to certain insects, your doctor may provide you with an epi-pen in case of emergency.

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