In a review of 15 North American emergency departments, Sunday Clark, ScD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues evaluated the medical records of 617 patients with insect sting allergies.

Among the patients, researchers found that 58% had local reactions, 11% had mild systemic reactions, and 31% experienced a sudden, severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction with symptoms ranging from itching and hives over large areas of the body, swelling in the throat or tongue to a rapid fall in blood pressure that can result in loss of consciousness and death.

The study found:

“Because the ED is the most common medical setting for diagnosing and treating anaphylaxis, advances in anaphylaxis management will need the active participation of emergency medicine clinicians and researchers,” said Carlos Camargo, MD, emergency physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Current guidelines for treating patients with severe allergic reactions to insect stings recommend epinephrine as the gold standard for treatment, and teaching the proper techniques for self-administration of epinephrine the next time the patient is stung. “This study demonstrates an opportunity for ED staff to guide patients with potentially life-threatening allergies toward better allergy management.” said Camargo.; Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology