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Vol. 210, No. 2, 2005
Issue release date: 2005
Dermatology 2005;210:119–127

Systemic Immediate Allergic Reactions to Arthropod Stings and Bites

Bircher A.J.
Allergy Unit, Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland

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Most of the encounters with biting and stinging insects result in more or less pronounced localized reactions. Typically, urticarial wheals and papular reactions are observed. Less often local bullous or hemorrhagic or disseminated papular reactions, particularly in children and immunologically naive adults, may be seen. With the exception of bee and wasp venom allergies, immediate-type allergic reactions to arthropod stings and bites are rare. Systemic IgE-mediated hypersensitivity has also been reported from additional hymenoptera species, e.g. hornets, bumble bees and ants. Rare are systemic reactions to mosquitoes, flies or kissing bugs and exceptional from ticks, bed bugs, moths, caterpillars and spiders. A major problem is the often lacking standardization of extracts for skin testing and for the determination of specific IgE. Some of the allergens have been characterized and few of them synthesized using recombinant techniques. Most investigations have been made with whole-body extracts or extracts from salivary glands, while desensitization has rarely been attempted. Currently, primary prevention by avoidance of stings and bites, and adequate instruction of sensitized individuals in the use of emergency drugs are mandatory.

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