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Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Bee Aware Program

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There is a site on the Internet named "Bee Aware" that provides information for patients and physicians about stinging insect allergies and venom immunotherapy. The quality of the information is good, so this website makes an excellent reference for the average person and can be reliably used by doctors and other health care providers to assist in educating their patients.

For instance:

“It is impossible, not to mention undesirable, to avoid going outdoors, but there are certain precautions that can be taken that will allow you to enjoy the outdoors while minimizing your chances of being stung.

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 these 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.
  • Caution children about not throwing 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.”

Regarding venom immunotherapy:

“Venom Immunotherapy (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 be able to tolerate a sting without your body ‘overreacting’. VIT has been found to be 95 to 97% effective in reducing the risk of systemic reaction in stinging insect allergic patients.”

The purpose of the program, in addition to educating patients, seems to be to facilitate referral to allergists, presumably to promote venom immunotherapy. So, it is not a completely unbiased site. However, that having been noted, the information is attractively presented and would benefit persons and groups interested in lowering the incidence of stinging insect allergic reactions.

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Tags: Bites & Stings

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.

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