Harvard Health Letter

Getting into the sting of things

Venom from stinging insects can cause a bad allergic reaction, and some heart medications may make it worse.

The long days of summer lure many of us outdoors to take in some fresh air, soak up some rays, and — the health-conscious think to themselves — make some of that wondrous vitamin D. But alfresco, we also become prey for mosquitoes and other blood-hungry insects intent on making a meal out of us and spreading more than their fair share of pestilence in the process.

By contrast, stinging insects are a relatively minor matter from a public health standpoint. They don't spread disease. Only about 40 Americans die each year from insect stings. But stings certainly hurt like the dickens, and for a small number of people, a sting unleashes a dangerous immunological reaction that's anything but trivial. For people who suffer these strong reactions, heart medications like beta blockers and ACE inhibitors may make things worse.

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