Is Eating Bugs Really Bad?

August 5th, 2015

Is Eating Bugs Really Bad?

In countries throughout the world and in the United States to a smaller degree there is a movement to incorporate insects as an edible source of protein in order to among other things effectively feed a blossoming global population. And while the movement has its merits, one has to wonder if there are bugs we shouldn’t eat

Certain bugs can be a problem if swallowed. Insects that sting or bite such as bees, wasps, fire ants and some types of caterpillars can cause problems according to Bobbi Pritt, a microbiologist, pathologist and director of the Clinical Parasitology Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Usually eating one will just cause mild pain and localized swelling if it bites or stings you,” Pratt says.

However, if you are allergic, eating one that stings can lead to “breaking out in hives; swelling of the face, throat or mouth; difficulty breathing; dizziness; a drop in blood pressure; and even cardiac arrest. If they don’t have an EpiPen, eating a bug they’re allergic to can be fatal,” she says.

Some people are allergic to certain proteins in arthropods that don’t sting. Cockroaches can lead to breathing difficulties if pieces of it are inhaled, especially in patients with asthma. Some arthropods passively carry bacteria on their feet and body. Flies can carry Shigella, which can cause severe and often bloody diarrhea. “If this happens it usually resolves itself within a week, but if it’s severe, it may require antibiotics.”

Eating fleas, perhaps by playing with the family pet, is a common way to get the double-pored dog tapeworm, says Dr. Pritt. So be sure to bring pets in for regular checkups  and use an insect repellent as directed.”

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