Whether they bite, sting or simply scurry across your floor, insects that invade your territory can bring a slew of health risks right along with them. The most extreme risk is death, which can occur from severe allergic reactions to certain insect stings. The more you know about the potential health risks insects carry, the better you can protect yourself, your home and your family.
Biting insects include everything from bed bugs to mosquitoes, with fleas, ticks and kissing bugs in between. The typical reaction to a bite from any of these pests includes minor swelling, pain, itching and redness. In very rare cases, insect bites result in the same type of severe and life-threatening allergic reaction more commonly associated with stinging insects.
Stinging insects inject venom into the body, and this toxic substance is what can result in a life-threatening allergic reaction. Some of the most common stinging insects associated with allergic reactions are honeybees, yellow jackets, paper wasps and fire ants.
Typical reactions to an insect sting are similar to those of an insect bite. Most experience swelling, pain, redness and itching around the affected area, which can subside on its own in hours or days. But the atypical reaction, the life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, frequently requires immediate medical attention.
Allergic Reaction Signs and Symptoms
Allergic reactions occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to an allergen, which would be the venom in the case of an insect sting. Allergic reaction symptoms can affect multiple parts of the body that are nowhere near the sting, such as the heart, lungs, digestive system, mouth or skin. Signs include:
- Hives, itching or rashes
- Swelling of the throat, lips or tongue
- Trouble breathing, wheezing or shortness of breath
- Fainting or dizziness
- Bloating, vomiting, diarrhea or stomach pain
- Free-floating anxiety, or the feeling that something terrible is about to occur
- Loss of consciousness
Other Serious Reactions
Allergic reactions aren’t the only hazards of insect venom. Venom can also trigger a toxic reaction or serum sickness in certain individuals.
- Toxic reactions occur when a person’s body reacts to the venom as if it were a poison. The condition typically comes with symptoms similar to an allergic reaction, along with fever, seizures, nausea, shock and death
- Serum sickness occurs when a person’s body has an unusual reaction to a foreign substance in the body, which in this case is the venom. Symptoms can hit hours or even days after a sting or bite, resulting in joint pain, fever and other flu-like ailments
Other Insects that Don’t Bite or Sting
Even insects that don’t bite or sting can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. Prime examples in this category are dust mites and the cockroach. Insect droppings, saliva and shed skin have been linked to allergy symptoms and asthma attacks.
The chances of suffering from allergy symptoms or asthma attacks from cockroach skin, saliva and droppings depend on multiple factors. These include:
- How sensitized an individual is to the cockroach allergen, with repeated, prolonged exposure resulting in higher levels of sensitivity
- The concentration of the infestation
- The quality of ventilation
Someone who has been living in a poorly ventilated, highly infested household for an extended period, for example, would be much more likely to suffer from allergy symptoms or even an asthma attack than someone who lived in a space with good ventilation and few roaches.
Not everyone suffers from allergy symptoms or asthma attacks from cockroaches or other insects simply because not everyone has allergies or asthma. Those who do suffer from either, and suspect an infestation in their homes, should take immediate steps to exterminate the pests.
Seeing an allergist or immunologist can also help in the case of allergies to help identify the specific cause of your symptoms. Allergy symptoms caused by insects are the same as allergy symptoms caused by other factors. Common signs include:
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Scratchy throat
Pest Control Solutions
Freeing your home and yard of potentially harmful insects, particularly large colonies of them, is a must to keep you and your family safe. In addition to pest control extermination methods to rid your household and surrounding landscape of infestation, you can practice preventive pest control methods that help keep them out of the area down the line.
Regular visits from a pest control professional can be an ideal solution for keeping your interior and exterior surroundings free of insects and their accompanying health hazards.