Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lessons from life-threatening allergic reactions to insect stings

I just saw a girl who had an allergic reaction to an insect sting. She thought she was stung by a hornet in the back yard. The lesson here is to try to try as much as possible identify the stinging insect. Once the insect flies away, it is not so easy to identify which type of black and yellow-striped insect did the stinging. I asked her family to kill one and then take it a local exterminator for identification. Fortunately, they were able to do so. We both learned something new. The offender was a cicada killer wasp. Try Google images "cicada killer wasp" to see some good pictures. The beautiful photo of an Adult Male Cicada Killer Wasp (Note facsimile stinger) to the left is courtesy of I also really like this site: because of the photos and explanations.

Wasps can cause fatal allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis. On a blog below, I've discussed proper diagnosis and treatment. This issue hit home again yesterday, because I found out that the father of a boy in my son's Boy Scout Troop just died from anaphylaxis following an insect sting. He became one of about 50 people per year in the United States who die from this cause. Very tragic and possibly all the more so if he knew beforehand that he was extremely allergic to insect venom.

If you know some one who has extreme allergic reactions to insects, please do them and their family a favor and remind them: to always carry their treatment kit, and get proper treatment (immunotherapy for insect venom).

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