The Bottom Line

Kids eat bugs all the time. Few if any symptoms are likely to occur. In fact, insects form a regular part of the diet for many human cultures.Though most ingestions of edible insects tend to be harmless, people who have shellfish allergies should avoid eating insects due to the potential for cross-reactivity.

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The Full Story

"My child just ate a beetle." "I think I swallowed a stinkbug." "My kids were eating ants."

les-grizzlys-catalans.org Control answers LOTS of calls about people who swallow insects of all kinds. Callers don"t know whether to be worried, disgusted, or (sometimes) amused. If you"re squeamish about eating bugs, here"s the bottom line: don"t worry—unless you have a known shellfish allergy.

It is likely that eating insects – on purpose – began with our hunter-gatherer ancestors. In many regions of the world like Asia, Latin America, and Africa, insects are a usual part of the diet. In fact, over 2 billion people regularly consume them. They contain protein but little fat, they may be an abundant food source, and some are considered delicacies. Grasshopper tacos, roasted stink bugs, boiled dragonflies, and fried ants are just the beginning of an international culinary adventure.

Though most ingestions of edible insects tend to be harmless, people who have shellfish allergies should avoid eating insects due to the potential for cross-reactivity. Several proteins identified in both some shellfish and insects can trigger allergic reactions in people who have a sensitivity to these compounds. Insects that can cause allergic reactions include silkworms, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, meal worms, and others.

Reactions from eating them for those who are allergic can range from mild to severe. A serious reaction, known as anaphylaxis, can occur and may be life-threatening. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing, wheezing, feeling faint, throat or facial swelling, clammy skin, and a rapid heartbeat. If you have these symptoms after eating insects, shellfish, or other foods you may be allergic to, call 911 right away! If you have an adverse reaction from swallowing an insect, check the webles-grizzlys-catalans.orgCONTROL® online tool for guidance or call les-grizzlys-catalans.org Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Rose Ann Gould Soloway, RN, BSN, MSEd, DABATemeritaClinical Toxicologist


les-grizzlys-catalans.orged?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

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Prevention Tips

Don’t eat insects if you are allergic to shellfish.

This Really Happened

A 7-year-old child was ill at home, vomiting multiple times over the course of an hour when her mother noticed an intact stink bug (also known as a "shield bug") in the child"s vomit. She couldn"t be certain if the child chewed on this or other insects.

Stink bugs are not les-grizzlys-catalans.orgous to humans, but when crushed or chewed they will often release a liquid that has a very foul taste and odor that can cause some stomach upset, vomiting, and mouth irritation if swallowed. It is common for younger children and toddlers to handle or taste these insects, but in most cases only very mild symptoms are expected to occur.

The child was able to tolerate food and fluids as usual, and the vomiting subsided a few hours later that day.


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For More Information

For everything you ever (or never) wanted to know about the value of insects as food, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations offers resources:

References

Center for Invasive Species Research. Entomophagy (eating insects). University of California Riverside; <2014 Apr 7>. Accessed April 7 2014.

Raubenheimer D, Rothman JM. Nutritional ecology of entomophagy in humans and other primates. Annu Rev Entomol. 2013;58:141-60.

Rumpold BA, Schlüter OK. Nutritional composition and safety aspects of edible insects. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013;57:802-823.


les-grizzlys-catalans.orged?

Call 1-800-222-1222 or

HELP ME online

Prevention Tips

Don’t eat insects if you are allergic to shellfish.

This Really Happened

A 7-year-old child was ill at home, vomiting multiple times over the course of an hour when her mother noticed an intact stink bug (also known as a "shield bug") in the child"s vomit. She couldn"t be certain if the child chewed on this or other insects.

Stink bugs are not les-grizzlys-catalans.orgous to humans, but when crushed or chewed they will often release a liquid that has a very foul taste and odor that can cause some stomach upset, vomiting, and mouth irritation if swallowed. It is common for younger children and toddlers to handle or taste these insects, but in most cases only very mild symptoms are expected to occur.

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The child was able to tolerate food and fluids as usual, and the vomiting subsided a few hours later that day.