Day and Night Pharmacy – Summer Stings

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Summer Stings!

I’ve got a pub hypothesis: the reason for the locals’ over-reaction to insect stings and their vulnerability to bacterial infections acquired thereof can be put down to just being British.

   These islands are too clean and the climate is such that there are not too many insects about. Folks grow up not having had frequent  challenges to build both tolerance to insect toxins and immunity to otherwise mildly pathogenic  bacteria. I just need a geeky professor to back me up.

   How else can I explain another summer of seeing whole limbs swollen taut from single insect stings… I  can’t get used to it. We’re not talking about a wasp sting that knocked me out of my grandmother’s mango tree. No- just some unidentified little insect in your back garden. Please, if the reaction to a bite is lasting longer than the mother-in-law’s maximum tolerable visit duration- 3 days- come to the pharmacy and we will see whether it’s one of those that end up needing more than just an anti-allergy but also an antibiotic.

day and night bite

   Mast cells in our tissues have intruder  (allergen) detectors just like Oscar Pistorius’ house. When an allergen like pollen or an insect sting is detected the mast cells unleash over-reacting mediator chemicals like the familiar histamine to get rid of the allergen. Histamine does this by causing irritation in the nostrils so that we sneeze the mite dust out; causing the itch so that we scratch the sting or toxin out and  producing mucus and squeezing the airways (as in asthma or anaphylaxis) in a futile attempt to expel the inhaled intruder.

  This is where the anti-histamines or corticosteroids come in. As their name suggests antihista mines block off the effects of histamine thus reducing the sneezing, the itch, the weeping eye or the redness and  inflammation.

As I have written before, there is not much to separate antihistamines when taken at their standard doses. Other than patient to patient response variation and preference the major difference is that the older ones cause drowsiness (and are probably better for skin allergies).The newer generation cause little or no drowsiness.  In contrast the steroids are the bazooka; whatever a pistol (antihistamine) does they do more extensively.

 My ten year old angel, the Yorkshire lass with African genes, gets big lamps from mosquito stings which last for almost the duration of our stay abroad. Her mother and I get the swelling and itch which is over by the next morning. The poor girl scratches her skin off. She’s not familiar with tropical stuff.

 I mean she’s also scared of the ever-present spider’s web that hangs in the ceiling of her nana’s kitchen hut, as if a spider ever went out to attack a human. My mother has to dismantle the webs before our visits but, sorry mate, she can’t do owt about the mosquitoes and the flies. Yes the flies… the fly hives that have a VIP admittance card to everything you eat- even bits left on your mouth-and more. One hopes that when they come to lick your lips they’ve not just been partying on some bull dung in the bushes behind the homestead.

I’m not hearing voices but I have a premonition that men in white coats are coming to get me. I better run.

Yours Medicinally, Abel Kubare,  Superintendent Pharmacist Day & Night Pharmacy

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