Fall is in full force here in the northwest, and many of us are soaking up the final dry months before winter sets in by spending time outdoors. If you are one of the many people who are severely allergic to stinging insects, you may be nervous to come in contact with the insects that are active this time of year; but with venom immunotherapy, there’s hope.
If you have had a severe allergic reaction to the bite or sting of an insect, the first line of defence is to avoid areas where insects are active, take measures to protect yourself, and carry an Epinephrine Auto-Injector at all times. To reduce your risk of having a severe allergic reaction in the future, talk to your physician about venom immunotherapy.
What Is Venom Immunotherapy?
Venom immunotherapy is the process of introducing venom (the allergen) in small doses to build up immunity over time. Venom is administered in gradual quantities, beginning with a very small amount that your body can easily fight off. Over time, the doses become larger until your body is better equipped to defend itself against the allergen. This process trains your body so that if you are stung after you obtain immunotherapy, your reaction to the venom will be less severe. Venom immunotherapy is highly effective; studies show that venom immunotherapy can ease your allergic reactions to insect venom and shrink your risk of having a severe allergic reaction in the future to less than 5%.
Symptoms Of An Allergic Reaction To Venom
It’s normal to have a physical reaction to an insect bite or sting. Common symptoms include the following:
- Pain, itchiness, and swelling around the site
- Bump on the site
- Localized or semi-localized swelling and redness
If you are severely allergic to an insect bite or sting, you may experience an anaphylactic (life-threatening) reaction. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include the following:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Rash or hives that are not localized
- Lowered blood pressure or rapid pulse
- Swelling of the face, throat, mouth, or tongue
If you experience these symptoms, they may be life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 and seek emergency care immediately.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Venom Immunotherapy?
While it is an effective form of allergy treatment, venom immunotherapy is not right for everyone. Venom immunotherapy is most commonly prescribed to people who are in good heart and lung health who have experienced a serious allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting. If you are taking certain medications, you may not be approved for venom immunotherapy. The best way to determine your candidacy for venom immunotherapy is to talk with your physician to decide if this course of treatment is right for you.
How Is Venom Immunotherapy Administered?
If your physician prescribes immunotherapy shots, you will first undergo a series of tests to determine what insects you’re allergic to. When the insect (or insects) have been identified, your physician will inject shots with their venom up to two times per week in gradual doses. When you’ve reached the maximum dose for treatment, you will reduce your shot frequency and continue to receive a ‘maintenance dose’ for up to twice a month, for three to five years. Your physician may recommend a course of action for continued treatment depending on your needs.
Common Symptoms Of Immunotherapy
Because you’re receiving small doses of an allergen, you can expect to feel slight discomfort during the process. You will receive immunotherapy shots in a hospital or clinic so that your physician can monitor your response.
You may experience slight discomfort during venom immunotherapy. Your symptoms may include:
- Warmth, redness, or itching at the injection site
- Inflammation or swelling of the skin
- Hives or rash
These symptoms are normal. We encourage you to ask questions and to talk to your physician about your concerns before and during treatment.
Venom Immunotherapy At WWMG
Our highly trained ENT staff has special expertise in treating complex problems of the ear, nose, throat, head, and neck. Our goal is to maximize the quality of life for all of our patients. At WWMG Department of Ear, Nose, & Throat/Allergy/Audiology, we offer various treatments for managing allergies, including venom immunotherapy for the defence against severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings.
Venom immunotherapy is a highly safe and effective method of defence for patients who experience allergic reactions to insect bites and stings. If you have experienced a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite or sting, talk to your physician or request an appointment with an ENT specialist at WWMG to learn more about venom immunotherapy.