published Thursday, July 28th, 2011

ASK A DOCTOR

Q: I was recently stung on the arm by a yellow jacket, and my arm became extremely swollen. Should I have a life-threatening reaction in the future?

A: In general, a large local reaction like the one you experienced does not increase your risk for having an anaphylactic (“life-threatening”) reaction to a future sting. The treatments for large localized reactions include cold compress-es, antihis-tamines and occasion-ally pain relievers (Tylenol or Motrin). Insect stings are also a common cause of severe allergic reactions. Symptoms of a severe reaction might include hives, swelling of the skin away from the area that was stung, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, shortness of breath or throat discomfort. If you ever experience any of these symptoms, you should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, you should make an appointment to see an allergy specialist for testing and possibly venom immunotherapy (allergy shots), which can decrease the risk of anaphylaxis by 97 percent.

— Dr. Lee Perry, Chattanooga Allergy Clinic; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, e-mail it to Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com. See this space each week for answers.

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