BEE WARY Children who have had severe allergic reactions to bee, wasp and other insect stings should receive allergy shots to reduce their risk of life-threatening responses, according to an editorial in the Aug. 12 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The editorial, by Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of the allergy division of internal medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, accompanied a study on the subject by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Asthma and Allergy Center in Baltimore. Researchers surveyed more than 500 adults who had had insect allergies as children. Fewer moderate and severe reactions to subsequent stings were reported among those who had received venom immunotherapy as children (3 percent) than those who hadn't (17 percent). Immunotherapy lasted 31/2 years, on average. Protection lasted up to 20.

DEFENDING THE TILT Exercises by pregnant women to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles may make labor slightly easier, finds a study in the Aug. 14 edition of the British Medical Journal. Norwegian researchers studied 301 healthy pregnant women who had not previously given birth. Half the women took part in an exercise program that included pelvic tilts between the 20th and 36th weeks of pregnancy. While no significant difference was found between the groups in the duration of the second (pushing) stage of labor, fewer in the training group were undelivered after an hour. Researchers concluded that improved muscle control appeared to facilitate, not hamper, labor, as some women had previously feared.

RUNS IN THE FAMILY Knee osteoarthritis is twice as likely to develop in siblings of those diagnosed with the condition than in others, according to a study in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. The finding suggests that, as suspected, genetics plays a role in who gets the disease and who doesn't.

The study looked at 490 patients with knee osteoarthritis severe enough to require total joint replacement, 737 of their siblings over age 40 living close by and 1,729 patients with knee pain. Even when controlling for other risk factors such as overweight, older age, gender (women are more at risk) and smoking, siblings were still more than twice as likely to have the disease as other patients.

FLU AND YOU Last season's flu shot was effective for more than half of older adults who got it, even though the vaccine didn't match the most prevalent flu strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It worked in 49 percent of kids under age 2.

-- From News Services and Staff Reports