• alternative therapy;
  • complementary therapy;
  • epidemiology;
  • honeybee;
  • hymenoptera allergy;
  • insect allergy;
  • systemic anaphylactic reaction;
  • venom allergy;
  • wasp

Systemic allergic reactions to Hymenoptera stings have been reported in 1–4% of the whole population in various large studies (1). The frequency of insect allergy may be evaluated by anamnesis-based cross-sectional studies and/or skin-test results and specific serum IgE concentration assays (2). Most studies had been performed in developed countries (3–5), but there is no enough data in developing countries like ours. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs reports, Turkey ranked as the fourth country in the world in terms of number of beehives and honey production, and annual honey production is increasing every year (6). Therefore, venom allergy is an important problem for our country. The aim of our study was to estimate, on the basis of an interviewer-administered questionnaire, the frequency of allergic sting reactions and the use of alternative therapy methods for it in our region. The study was carried out in 709 healthy people attending consecutively our University Hospital in Van to get a health report for driving licence, etc. 709 healthy clients were included in the study, and 564 (79.5%) of them were male and 145 (20.5%) were female. The mean age was 25.92 ± 8.46 years. There were no bee-keepers in our study group. The number of people reported at least one insect sting for all their lives was 606 (85.5%). The rate of people who had a bee sting during last year was 22.6%. The geometric mean of sting exposure was 3.92 ± 4.59. A wasp was recognized by 53.1% of subjects as their last stinging insect, honey bee in 38.8% and 8.1% were not able to identify the insect. The prevalence of severe systemic sting reactions was 1.2%, whereas the prevalence of mild systemic reaction was 5.4%. Large local reactions were reported in 11.5%, and 81.42% had normal or mild local reaction. Emergency room visits were reported in 5% of all cases. Family history for bee/wasp allergy was 11.7%. The cases had taken place commonly in August (18.3%); and in July (15.7%). None of the people who had systemic reactions had knowledge about adrenaline auto-injector and none of them was receiving immunotherapy for bee/wasp allergy.

The question ‘What did you do after the sting?’ was answered as follows: Only nine people (1.5%) had the knowledge that they had to remove the stinger, and five people (0.8%) had the knowledge to use antihistamines. Application rate for medical care was 1.8%. Cold compress application was used in 102 cases (16.8%). One case reported analgesic usage. Six people could not remember what they had done after the sting. Among all cases, 331 people (54.6%) reported that they had done nothing after the sting. Distributions of the alternative therapy methods used for bee or wasp stings are shown in Table 1.

Table 1.   Alternative therapy methods for bee/wasp allergy
Alternative therapy methodsn
Applying clay to the stinger site34
Applying tomato/tomato paste 24
Applying yoghurt20
Applying hot stones16
Squeezing/suctioning the stinger site9
Washing with tap water8
Applying garlic4
Applying metal things3
Let the stinger site to bleed2
Applying alcohol2
Applying salt2
Applying onions2
Applying warm compress1
Applying honey1
Applying stone1
Applying sour fruit1
Applying pressure with spoon1
Applying pressure with hands1
Smearing ointment1
Applying sugar1
Applying fig1
Applying iron water1
Applying ashes1
Applying hot iron1
Applying golden jewellery1

To our knowledge this is the first study on alternative therapy methods for bee/wasp allergy in eastern part of Turkey. Our study revealed that the public awareness for venom allergy is not enough. People did not know that there is a therapy method ‘venom immunotherapy’ and an ‘adrenaline auto-injector’ for emergency treatment in patients who had experienced severe systemic reactions. Many different traditional alternative methods are widely being used as the first choice of treatment among people although no scientific study has been performed to understand their effectiveness and there is no proof of their efficacy.

In conclusion; public knowledge about bee/wasp allergy, and behaviour for searching medical care, even among patients who had overcome life-threatening events, is not sufficient in eastern Turkey. Traditional alternative treatment usage is very common, which is not yet proven to be effective.


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  2. References
  • 1
    Müller UR. Bee venom allergy in beekeepers and their family members. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2005;5:343347.
  • 2
    Nitter-Marszalska M, Liebhart J, Liebhart E, Dor A, Dabek R, Obojski A, Medrala W et al. Med Sci Monit 2004;10:324329.
  • 3
    Fernandez J, Blanca M, Soriano V, Sanchez J, Juarez C. Epidemiological study of the prevalence of allergic reactions to Hymenoptera in a rural population in the Mediterranean area. Clin Exp Allergy 1999;29:10691074.
  • 4
    Golden DB, Marsh DG, Kagey-Sobotka A et al. Epidemiology of insect venom hypersensitivity. JAMA 1989;262:240244.
  • 5
    Settipane GA, Newstead GJ, Boyd GK. Frequency of Hymenoptera allergy in an atopic and normal population. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1972;50:146150.
  • 6
    Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs Reports, Turkey. 5 January 2007.