WASHINGTON, July 28, 2015 − You’re out jogging on a golden summer morning. Suddenly, up ahead, you spot a cloud of gnats winking in the sunlight. So you shut your mouth tight, run through them and hope you don’t inhale any on the way.
Or perhaps you’re at a summer picnic. After you’ve finished off half a ham sandwich, you notice the uneaten half has a few ants on it. You experience a momentary twinge, as you’re feeling a cadre of ingested ants now doing the backstroke in your stomach. But the feeling passes.
Then you reach for a soda to wash it all down, and notice a wasp struggling feebly inside the soda bottle. Perhaps he neglected to read those dire warnings from former New York mayor Bloomberg or Michelle Obama about the dangers of drinking soda. But you’re not thinking of that right now. You stare at the drowning wasp, and hesitate to swallow any of the bottle’s contents.
But, hey, after all, how much harm could inhaling a few gnats or swallowing a drowned wasp actually cause you?
According to a blog on KidsHealth.org, not much. As long as you do not put a live stinging insect inside your mouth, such as a wasp or a fire ant, ingesting a few bugs will not cause any kind of problem.
Instead, problems tend to arise when something possessed of a nasty sting − like a bee − or a noxious secretion − like a stinkbug − is accidentally introduced into the digestive system. This is especially true for people with allergies to insect stings and bites. Such individuals are in danger of setting off an allergic reaction that causes rashes, redness and swelling of the face and even more dangerous swelling in the throat.
Pathologist Bobbi Pritt of the Mayo Clinic tells the Wall Street Journal that our stomachs can digest anthropods like ants, gnats and fleas without a hassle. But the common house fly might be a different story. They carry the Shigella microbe, which can cause severe diarrhea in humans.
So maybe that traditional children’s song about the old lady who swallowed a fly (“I guess she’ll die”) has a crumb of truth in it after all!
AND SO TO VERSE:
When I am in the great outdoors, inhaling its fresh air,
a flying beetle I might gulp − so I take special care.
I swathe my face in netting fine and slather on the Deet,
ensuring flying insects my esophagus won’t greet!
I never leave a Pepsi can wide open when outside;
you never know what bug has crawled into it there, and died.
I understand that parasites can ride on my pet’s fleas,
and so I keep stuffed toys instead, avoiding all disease.
Perhaps you’ll call me paranoid, persnickety or cracked;
but when it comes to downing bugs, I have no grace or tact.