One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people delayed important medical procedures and treatments last year. In reality, an allergic reaction to a bee sting probably wasn’t your biggest concern in 2020. But did you know that 5-7.5% of Americans are hypersensitive to insect stings?1 This means they’re at risk of anaphylactic shock if they get stung by a flying insect like a wasp or bee. Due to this risk, allergy testing and treatment for a bee, wasp, yellow jacket, or hornet sting allergy is considered essential. Now that 2021 is here, it’s the perfect time to personally and financially plan for allergy testing and venom immunotherapy treatment (VIT).

Does Insurance Cover VIT?

Because a bee sting reaction can be severe or even fatal, diagnostic testing is typically covered by insurance. Your subsequent allergy shots may also qualify for partial or full coverage. All healthcare plans are different. It’s important to contact your insurance provider to discuss your coverage and identify copays or out-of-pocket costs. Your healthcare coverage may include eligible expenses determined by IRS Code Section 213(d), such as a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Medical Flexible Spending Account (Medical FSA). If so, you can use pre-tax dollars to cover your expenses.

woman making appointment for allergy testing

How to Start VIT

  1. Find a VIT Provider. Use the Find a VIT Provider tool to find a doctor in your area. Or, contact your preferred local allergy doctor to see if they offer VIT.
  2. Confirm provider coverage. No one likes a surprise medical bill. Contact your insurance company to make sure your doctor is covered.
  3. Make a new patient appointment. If you have a specific allergist you want to see, request them during the scheduling process.
  4. Fill out your new patient paperwork. The office will give you paperwork to complete. Besides standard medical information, new patient paperwork typically includes an allergy questionnaire. This information will help your doctor identify all of the allergens to test you for.
  5. Complete your initial consult. Many allergists offer phone or virtual consultations. During the initial consult, your allergist will review your health information and ask follow-up questions.
  6. Get tested. Your doctor will schedule an in-person appointment to complete your testing. A trained medical professional will administer a skin-prick test or blood test to confirm your allergy. After that, your doctor will create a personalized treatment plan.
  7. Start VIT.

How Long Does VIT Take?

Your allergist will determine the frequency and duration of injections. During the build-up phase, your doctor will administer a series of shots that introduce small amounts of venom into your body. Over time, the amount is increased gradually, allowing your immune system to build up a tolerance to the venom proteins. When an effective therapeutic dosage is reached, you will transition to the maintenance phase. Injections are given less frequently during this phase. An example maintenance schedule would be monthly shots for one year, then shots every 6-8 weeks for several more years.This process is continued until your body has enough immunity to tolerate a sting.

References

  1. Ludman, Boyle. (2015). Stinging insect allergy: current perspectives on venom immunotherapy. Journal of Asthma and Allergy, 2015(8), 75-86. doi: 10.2147/JAA.S62288
  2. Golden. Insect Sting Anaphylaxis. Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America, Volume 27, Issue 2, May 2007, Pages 261-272.