A woman in Spain lost her life after years of bee acupuncture. What is complementary and alternative medicine, and how can patients lessen or avoid its potential adverse risks?

Death From Bee Acupuncture

A recent report details the circumstances surrounding a woman's death due to a live bee sting that was a part of her apitherapy, the use of substances from honeybees to relieve certain medical conditions. Interestingly, the woman was not new to such therapeutic procedures, as she had been having apitherapy for years, but experts state that previous tolerance to bee stings does not lessen hypersensitive reactions.

The woman's case is the first known death as a result of bee venom apitherapy in a person who was previously tolerant of the venom.

Complementary And Alternative Medicine

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) are health approaches that are outside of mainstream medicine. In the United States, some of the most common therapies considered as CAM are herb use, relaxation techniques, chiropractics, and massage therapy. In some states, chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture therapy are licensed.

In 2005, statistics showed that 42 percent of people have tried at least one CAM therapy, but less than half of them disclose the engagement in such procedures to their doctors. This proves problematic, especially since some people tend to use alternative medications concurrently with, or in place of, conventional medicine, opening the risks of complications and negative reactions.

How To Lessen The Risks

First of all, the NIH suggests being fully informed before trying out CAM. Before trying anything out, whether a product to consume or a therapy to participate in, it would be best to first learn everything about it. This includes researching on its potential side effects and on which treatments have actually been proven safe and backed up by scientific evidence.

Apart from this, it's also important to inform health care providers, both conventional and complementary, about all the health approaches used, so as to give them both a full understanding of your health management. This way, health management can be coordinated and safe.

That said, it is also important to choose a complementary health care provider just as carefully as one would choose a doctor. The professional organization for the specific type of practitioner one is looking for may be useful in locating trained and licensed practitioners in your location.

Too Good To Be True

As mentioned, it is very important to fully research on a product or procedure before trying it out. Advertising terminologies such as "miracle cure," "quick fix," "ancient remedy," or "scientific breakthrough" must be treated with utmost caution. In such cases, the NIH reminds the public that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

As such, it is important to research not just on the product itself but also on the manufacturers as well. In this regard, the FDA may provide relevant information about a practice or product, so it would be well worth a trip to the agency's website before taking the plunge.

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