Medical Mondays: Amnesia & Amoeba

Ask The Book Doctor!    

This week’s questions come from stories in the news this past week.

If you’re a writer or a fan of books, TV shows, or movies–or even a news junkie–and have a medical-themed question you’d like to see answered in this weekly column, check out the submission guidelines at the bottom!


Q. A recent article in the newspaper featured a British man who, after getting stung by a wasp, had a severe allergic reaction that put him in a coma for week and when he woke up, he lost 20 years of his memory. Can you really get amnesia from an insect bite?


A. If the wasp sting caused a cardiac arrest or severe shock, yes, indirectly. And it could be severe or fatal. But the period of memory loss is highly suspect for being psychosomatic, not real.


Q. I suffer with allergy and sinus issues and have regularly used a Neti Pot, which my physician recommended, as did Dr. Oz on TV. I just read that two people in Louisiana died after being infected with “brain-eating amoeba” from the water used in their treatment. How frightening! Should I be worried? I live in a large city and thought my water was safe? Why are there amoebas in the water and what can I do to protect myself?

Neti Pot for Nasal Cleansing Photo Credit: Aikhan from


A. You must be sure you use pure water in the Neti Pot. Distilled, boiled, or reverse osmosis (RO) water is the best. Naegleria fowleri, the amoeba in question, is normally not a problem to have in drinking water as your digestive system is used to processing many impurities. However, your nose is not equipped to do this. I personally saw a case of this amoebic infection in a young woman who, while water skiing on a stagnant bay, fell face first into the water. There are only about 3-4 cases each year in the US, so it is, fortunately, very rare since it is almost always fatal.



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Attention writers and readers! If you need quick insight/advice on a medical condition that affects a character or impacts a storyline, or are curious about a medical story in the news, please email your question to I’ll post two answers here every week!

Due the volume of requests received, I am unable to provide personal responses. Questions should pertain to characters or stories you’re writing, books you’re reading, TV shows/movies you’re watching, or health issues in the news. If you have a question about a personal health issue, please contact your doctor.


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