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Keywords:

  • bee sting;
  • hypersensitivity;
  • mortality;
  • wasp stings

During a 21-year period in Denmark a total of 26 deaths were caused by wasp or bee stings (according to the National Health Service). The deaths might be classified, with some overlapping, as caused by either anaphylactic/anaphylactoid shocks (between 65% and 80%), suffocation after stings in the airways (about 15%) or preexisting diseases, especially arteriselerotic heart disease (approx 20%). Characteristically, in most persons with shock reactions uncosciousness and death occurred very shortly after the sting (within 45 min), while the interval between sting and death was longer (30 min to a couple of hours) when death was caused by suffocation.

In more than 21 of the 26 cases it seemed reasonable to assume the insect allergy might have contributed to the fatal outcome. Six of these cases had a previous history of abnormal reactions to insect venom, thus only a small group would have benefited from the prophylactic effect of hyposensitisation. There was no known previous history of reactions to insect stings in the other cases, but it is likely that more than six persons had had severe reactions to insect stings on other occasions.

Presumably many deaths where insect stings have been involved – though not verified as causal – are classified as inexplicable or accidental, thus the real number of deaths caused by wasp or bee strings could be substantially greater. Consequently hyposensitisation after severe insect sting reaction of verified allergic genesis can still be advised.