What is Venom Immunotherapy (VIT)?

VIT is a series of injections that introduce minute amounts of venom into your body. The amount is gradually increased over time to help your immune system build a tolerance to the venom proteins. This process is continued until your body has enough immunity to tolerate a bee or wasp sting.9

How does VIT compare to an epinephrine auto-injector (EAI)?

VIT is proactive treatment that prevents a life-threatening emergency before it happens. An EAI is the first step of emergency treatment after an allergic reaction occurs. See the benefits of a proactive approach to bee and wasp allergies.  Proactive vs Reactive Treatment

How effective is VIT?

VIT has been found to be up to 98% effective in preventing systemic allergic reactions to stings.7

How long does VIT take?

The build-up phase, during which the amount of venom protein is gradually increased, can vary depending on the method used. During your VIT consult, the physician will discuss the various options and timelines available to find the treatment path that best suits your situation.

The maintenance phase begins when an effective therapeutic dosage is reached, at which time injections are given less frequently. The allergist will determine the necessary duration and frequency of injections for each patient, however an example maintenance schedule would be monthly shots for one year, with shots every 6-8 weeks for several more years.7

What are the risks involved with VIT?

There are risks involved with VIT. Most can be easily treated by your allergist and their staff. Be sure to discuss all possible risks with your allergist before deciding on the right treatment for you.

How can I avoid bees, wasps and stinging insects?

It is important to remember that stinging insects do not seek out humans. The sting of these insects is only used against people for self-defense or in defense of their nest. This is why it is important to never approach or provoke an insect of this kind unnecessarily.

  • If a stinging insect approaches, remain calm and stay still.
  • Never slap or brush off an insect of this kind, as they are more likely to sting when frightened by quick movements.
  • Avoid orchards in bloom, clover fields, and any areas that are abundant with flowers.
  • Don’t wear bright colors or fragrant perfumes or hair products when spending time outdoors.
  • Stinging insects are attracted to odors such as soft drinks and fruit juices, so be extra careful if eating or drinking outdoors.
  • Yellow jackets make their nests in the ground and paper hornets’ nests may be close to the ground, so avoid bare feet and ankles when outdoors.
  • Remind children not to throw stones or sticks at insect nests.
  • Have a non-allergic individual inspect property for nests in the early spring and periodically throughout the summer until hard frost.

Contact an exterminator or the local fire department to remove stinging insect nests.

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Mother bonding with a young girl

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1 Ludman & Boyle. Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy. Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 2015:8 Pages 75-86.

2 Jubilant HollisterStier Allergy. Instructions and Dosage Schedule for Allergenic Extracts: Hymenoptera Venom Products

3 Mylan. EpiPen/EpiPen Jr Prescribing Information. Retrieved 2018: https://www.epipen.com/hcp/-/media/files/epipen/prescribing%20information.pdf

4 Posner & Camargo. Update on the usage and safety of epinephrine auto-injectors, 2017. Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety. 2017.

5 Boyle. Epinephrine Auto Injector Use One Year after Training: A Randomized Controlled Comparison of Two Different Devices. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 135, Number 2, Abstracts AB209.

6 Mylan. About EpiPen and Generic Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved 2018: https://www.epipen.com/about-epipen-and-generic/faq

7 Golden. Insect Sting Anaphylaxis. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, Volume 27, Issue 2, May 2007, Pages 261-272.

8 T. T. Song, M. Worm, P. Lieberman. Anaphylaxis treatment: current barriers to adrenaline auto‐injector use. Allergy, Volume 69, 2014, Pages 983-991.

9Throughout this site the term “bees and wasps” is used as a generalized description of stinging insects. The complete list of VIT insects include: honey bee, wasp, white-faced hornet, yellow hornet, and yellow jacket.

10 David K. Golden, M. J. (2011). Stinging insect hypersensitivity: A practice parameter update 2011. J. Allergy Clin Immunol, 852-854.e23.

11 U.S. Census Bureau. (2017, July 1). Quick Facts United States. Retrieved from United States Census Bureau: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045217#PST045217

12 Goldberg, A., Confino-Cohen, R. Insect sting-inflicted systemic reactions: attitudes of patients with insect venom allergy regarding after-sting behavior and proper administration of epinephrine. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 106 (6): 1184-1189, 2000.

13 Current state of follow-up care for patients with Hymenoptera venom anaphylaxis in southwest Germany Major impact of early information. Allergo J Int. 2018; 27(1): 4–14. Published online 2018 Jan 16. doi: 10.1007/s40629-017-0046-7.