Recognizing allergic reactions to stings, bites and poison ivy
When it comes to allergic reactions, most people think about seasonal allergies and food allergies. But there are two other common types of allergies that are prevalent in the spring and summer. And you should be aware of them especially if you are planning outdoor activities such as camping or hiking.
Insect stings and bites
Most insect stings are just irritating, and the symptoms go away fairly quickly. But, some people are allergic to certain insect stings and bites, and the effects can be life threatening.
“Severe allergic reactions include swelling of the face or mouth, difficulty swallowing or speaking, chest tightness, wheezing, difficulty breathing, dizziness or fainting,” says Teresa McCormack, Registered Nurse in the Occupational Health and Safety Department at The Scarborough Hospital. “If you see signs of a severe reaction, you should call 911. And if the individual has an injectable epinephrine (EpiPen), it should be administered immediately.”
You should see a doctor if:
- The sting or bite is inside or near the mouth
- The child has a known allergy to stings and bites
- An EpiPen was used
- There are signs of infection
Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac
Getting a skin rash as a result of poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac is actually an allergic reaction. Not everyone that comes into contact with these plants has the reaction.
“You can identify an allergic reaction by an itchy red rash, blisters that ooze a clear fluid or bumps that look like streaks on the skin,” says Teresa. “It is commonly believed the rash spreads on contact from one body part to another. However, the truth is, it isn’t contagious.”
If you see signs of an allergic reaction to one of these plants, you should do the following:
- Remove and wash recently worn clothing that may have touched the plant
- Gently wash skin and scrub under the fingernails with soap and water
- Place cold compresses on the affected areas
- Take an oatmeal bath or use calamine lotion to relieve itching
If the rash is on the face or the genitals, you should seek medical care immediately.
Avoidance is always your best protection against any type of allergic reaction.
So when you’re participating in outdoor activities this spring and summer, be aware of your surroundings to prevent stings, bites and contact with any poison ivy, oak or sumac plants. Stay away from any insect nests or hives, and learn to identify the plants.