Man Suffocates to Death After Wasp Stings Him on the Tongue

A 52-year-old man has died after being stung on the tongue by a wasp during a family vacation, according to local media reports.

The man passed away on Tuesday in southeastern France near Lake Annecy in the French Alps mountain range, local daily Le Dauphiné Libéré reported.

The wasp responsible reportedly flew into the mouth of the victim while he was eating, subsequently stinging the man on his tongue.

The sting resulted in an immediate swelling of the tongue. The man then began to suffocate and eventually lost consciousness before his heart stopped.

Firefighters and paramedics who responded to the incident attempted to save the man. However, he could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The man, originally from Brittany in northwestern France, was on vacation with his wife, two sons and daughter-in-law at the time of the incident. Tuesday was meant to be the group's last day walking around the lake, news outlet Ouest-France reported.

In the vast majority of cases, the stings of bees, wasps and hornets—which all belong to an order of insects known as Hymenoptera—are not life-threatening, although they can be very painful, and the severity varies depending on the species.

In fact, experts say that the average adult would be able to withstand more than 1,000 bee stings. However, stings to the tongue or pharynx—a tube that connects the oral and nasal cavity to the larynx and esophagus—can be particularly dangerous.

paper wasp
A paper wasp on April 24, 2020 in Montlouis-sur-Loire, France. GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP via Getty Images

This is because stings in these areas can lead to a rapid swelling of the mucous membrane—a layer of cells that surrounds body organs and body orifices—which can cause suffocation.

The minority of the population with allergies to insect stings are also particularly at risk.

If stung, a small number of these people may suffer life-threatening allergic reactions, with symptoms including difficulty breathing, swelling of the face, throat or mouth, rapid pulse and a drop in blood pressure. In these cases, death can occur in as little as 10 minutes.

Nevertheless, it is important to remember that deaths resulting from bee, wasp and hornet stings are still very rare. In the U.S. there are an average of around 60 fatalities every year—approximately 80 percent of whom are males—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.