||Information for patients with allergy and related
in the Southwest
Environment and allergic disease
Mites and cockroaches
Allergenic Insects in the Southwest
- When insects sting, they inject venom that can cause allergic reactions in susceptible
individuals. The most common reaction to a stinging insect is a diffuse
swelling in the area of the sting. These large local reactions may be alarming
but are almost always benign and subside spontaneously without specific treatment.
Reactions limited to swelling in the area of the sting do not pose a risk of dangerous
reactions to subsequent stings.
- Uncommonly, severe systemic allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis
- Honey bees, yellow jackets,
paper wasps, harvester ants and native fire
ants are the main cause of allergic sting reactions in the southwest. (Follow
links for pictures). They belong to the Hymenoptera order of insects.
- Honey bees leave a characteristic sting
apparatus embedded in the skin after a sting, because of the barbed stylus in the
- Yellow jackets are found mainly at higher elevations, and are usually not a problem in
metropolitan Tucson or Phoenix. Hornets occur in the mountainous areas.
- In the certain areas of the Sonoran desert, particularly where people live close
to prickly pear habitat, allergy to kissing bugs (cone-nose
bugs, Triatoma) can develop. These are blood sucking insects that typically
cause painless bites and may cause allergic reactions while the victim is
asleep. Among the natural hosts of kissing bugs are pack rats that live in
nests under prickly pear plants and like to establish nests in yard structures and out-
buildings. People severely allergic to kissing bugs should take all measures to keep
the bugs out of the house, and have liquid antihistamine such as Benadryl and an
epinephrine syringe available at the bedside.
- Prevention of anaphylactic reactions: For systemic reactions, sensitive individuals must carry and use an
emergency epinephrine injection (EpiPen or Auvi-Q) and liquid diphenhydramine
(Benadryl). [See Anaphylaxis on the Food allergy page].
An allergist should then be consulted for skin testing and venom injection
Graft DF. Insect sting allergy.
[Review] [108 refs] Medical Clinics of North America.
90(1):211-32, 2006 Jan.
Golden DB. Insect
sting allergy and venom immunotherapy.
[Review] [46 refs] Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. 96(2 Suppl
1):S16-21, 2006 Feb.
Schumacher, M.J., Egen, N.B.: Significance of Africanized bees
for public health: A review. Archives of Internal Medicine Vol 155: pp 2038-2043,
Levine MI, Lockey RF (eds) : Monograph on Insect Allergy.
American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, Milwaukee WI, 3rd Edition,
Disclaimer: This site is for educational
purposes only. Any information that you have found in this web site is not
intended to replace medical care or advice given to you by your own physicians. You should
consider consulting your local medical library and other web sites for additional
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Content Owner: Michael J. Schumacher, MB, FRACP, The
University of Arizona