DR. HOOK- Bee careful: Insect stings can be deadly

Jessica Simpson– you either love her or hate her. I think she's okay– but come on! You and I both know she knows what "Chicken of the Sea" is. On her reality show, she was so dumb-dumb pretending she didn't know it was tuna fish. She and Nick, her ex-hubbie (by the way, I think Hollywood stars should have a "Three strikes and you're out" marriage clause. Sorry, Liz!), must have concocted that tuna plot over some stiff shots of tequila. No one could be that dumb-dumb– or can they?

In the '70s, I remember when people said that Bumble Bee tuna fish was bad for you– can't remember why exactly, but it was something odd. Come to think of it, why in the world would someone name tuna fish after a chicken or a bumble bee? At least Startkist has a fish named Charlie representing its tuna. I think if I had a tuna fish company, I would name it "Tun-a-Piano." 

I wouldn't name my tuna after a potentially deadly insect like a bee– and insect stings can be deadly.

Insects whose stings cause the majority of significant allergic reactions belong to the order of Hymenoptera (I promise not to make a pun out of this one– yikes!). This order includes honey bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets. Stings from these critters can be mild to fatal. Only 40 Americans are reported each year to die from a sting, but I knew someone here in Charlottesville who was killed by a bee sting. And with Africanized Killer Bees creeping into the U.S., I fear we might see more cases.

I've been stung by a hornet while mowing my lawn– which is why I don't mow anymore– no actually, I wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts now. I was so mad from the pain that I stupidly sprayed the hornets' nest in the shrubs with a freezing agent and sprayed five billion tons of Raid as they flew out. Not smart!  

Honey bees are our friends and are essential for pollination. They only sting in defense because their sting is worth their life. (So kamikaze!) I've been stung only once– a beach in Maui. I ran into the ocean hoping the waves would suck the poison out, but then ran back towards the hotel fearing I might have anaphylaxis (low blood pressure, choking from throat swelling, asthma attack, body swelling).  

Boy, that hurt! The arch of my foot was swollen like an ostrich egg. You're supposed to remove the stinger with a credit card– but I have yet to see that work. Plus I didn't have my Visa card on the beach.

Only five percent of people who get serious reactions to stings develop anaphylaxis. Only 0.3 percent of stings will cause anaphylaxis. If someone has had an anaphylactic experience with a bee sting, there's a 60 percent chance it can occur again with another sting (not 100 percent as we thought in the past). Nonetheless, a person like this needs to carry an Epi Pen (epinephrine) to inject should anaphylaxis occur.  

 However, for the majority of people who get stung, the reaction tends to be local– causing an itchy bump that lasts 48 hours to one week. Some people want to vomit and feel wiped out from a sting. Rarely, serum sickness occurs from a sting 7-10 days later: joint aches, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue.

Treatment for stings usually includes antihistamines like Benadryl, topical steroids, and ice. By the way, bumble bees (Bombus) actually don't usually cause systemic allergic reactions, and neither does tuna fish, Jessica.