Allergy makes bee sting fatal

People's Pharmacy

July 05, 1998|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D.,SPECIAL TO THE SUN King Features Syndicate

Q. My son works for a landscaping company. Until last week, he loved his job, but then a co-worker was stung by a yellow jacket and died suddenly from an allergic reaction. Now my son is afraid of being stung, and it has affected his attitude toward his work. He takes insecticide with him, but he is still fearful.

Didn't you write about home remedies for stings? Perhaps if he knew how to treat them, he would be less frightened.

A. Stings from wasps, yellow jackets and bees are painful for everyone but life threatening only for those who are allergic.

For such people, home remedies are not appropriate. They need to have epinephrine (Ana-Kit, EpiPen) with them at all times and seek emergency treatment immediately.

If your son has never experienced a reaction such as hives, widespread itching, breathing problems, chest tightness, nausea or dizziness, he may not need to fear a sting. If he has had any of these symptoms when stung, he should get desensitization shots (immunotherapy) to prevent a life-threatening reaction.

For people who are not allergic, home remedies may ease the pain and swelling. The cut side of an onion applied to the sting can help. So can meat tenderizer mixed with water or vinegar to make a paste. Baking soda and vinegar is also popular.

Q. I am a 39-year-old female who has had acne for the past several years, especially on my chin, jaw line and neck. The dermatologist has given me topical prescription creams that haven't done much good and has said my only other choice would be oral antibiotics.

Recently I have started applying Neosporin ointment to the affected areas of my face. The difference is miraculous! I am practically blemish free after only two weeks of this treatment. Any blemishes I do get are very small and disappear within a few days of applying the Neosporin. Have you heard of this?

A. Neosporin contains the antibacterial ingredients polymyxin B, bacitracin and neomycin. It is used for first aid to keep minor cuts from becoming infected. Your use of Neosporin is new to us. If it loses its effectiveness, check back with your doctor. There are many other treatment options for acne.

Q. I am only in my 50s but have an enlarged prostate. This results in frequent urination, especially at night. If I delay going to the bathroom I can get into a lot of trouble.

My doctor has prescribed Hytrin to improve my symptoms, but I have found that this is a blood pressure medicine. I don't have hypertension and the drug makes me dizzy. My golf partner says he uses saw palmetto with good results. What can you tell me about this herb? I am also interested in ginseng and ginkgo for energy and memory.

A. Saw palmetto has been shown to ease symptoms of benign prostate enlargement. It is roughly comparable to drugs like Hytrin.

Ginseng and ginkgo biloba are ancient Chinese herbs that have become extremely popular. Western science is just beginning to determine whether their traditional uses as a tonic and memory enhancer are justified. One study did suggest that gingko biloba could delay the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

Pub Date: 7/05/98

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