A 55-year-old woman died after undergoing a form of acupuncture that replaces the tiny needles with live bee stings. The woman had been receiving the painful treatment once a month for the past two years to treat stress and muscle tightness. In her last session, she suffered from an allergic reaction to the bee stings.
A report published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology said the woman had difficulty breathing and passed out during the treatment.
During an apitherapy session, she developed wheezing, dyspnea [difficulty breathing], and sudden loss of consciousness immediately after a live bee sting.
It took nearly 30 minutes for the ambulance to arrive and begin treatment. EMS workers were able to stabilize her in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, but she died several weeks later due to multiple organ failures. The report suggested that she may have survived if the apitherapy practitioner had given her a dose of adrenaline when she first experienced shortness of breath and if the ambulance had arrived sooner.
The authors of the study said that repeated exposure to the bee venom can lead to an increased risk of an allergic reaction, which could explain why she did not have any adverse reactions during her previous treatments.
Live bee acupuncture is an extreme practice of apitherapy, which uses honey, pollen, and other bee products to treat a variety of ailments. It is one of the few therapies that uses bee venom to treat patients.
Doctors warn that bee acupuncture is "both unsafe and unadvisable."
The risks of undergoing apitherapy may exceed the presumed benefits, leading us to conclude that this practice is both unsafe and unadvisable.
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