A 47-year-old African American female elementary school-teacher presented with itchy, watery eyes, rhinorrhea, postnasal drainage, and nasal congestion complicated by recurrent epistaxis for 2 months. She had similar symptoms the previous year from September to May but was symptom free during the summer. Her symptoms began within 1 hour after entering the classroom and improved in the evening at home, on weekends, and vacation. She denied symptoms around dust, freshly cut grass, or pets and had no prior history of underlying allergic rhinitis and asthma. She had a 20-pack-a-year smoking history but quit 11/2 years ago. A detailed history of her classroom environment revealed the presence of mealworms that were used to teach the children about life cycles. Physical exam revealed swollen, erythematous nasal turbinates but was otherwise unremarkable. Prick skin testing was positive for oak tree, grasses, feathers, and cockroaches. Mealworm whole body extracts were prepared using standard methodology. Titration intracutaneous skin testing revealed a positive reaction at a 1:1000 concentration associated with a large delayed reaction 8 hours later that persisted for 24 hours. Specific nasal provocation using acoustic rhinometry revealed a dose response change in nasal volume (48% decrease at 1:100; 53% decrease at 1:50) and cross-sectional area (32% decrease at 1:100; 48% decrease at 1:50) in response to mealworm challenge compared with a saline control. Removal of the mealworms from the classroom resulted in complete relief of her symptoms. This is the first reported case of mealworm-induced rhinitis in a schoolteacher. Because mealworm demonstrations are now part of the standard curriculum in public school elementary classrooms in Ohio, it is important that school administrators recognize the sensitizing nature of these insects and their potential for causing allergic rhinitis and asthma in the workplace.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Publication date: January 1, 2002
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