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THE PRIME TIME for insect stings is September and October because of their sheer numbers. People with allergies need to take extra precautions, advises the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Up to 5 percent of Americans are at risk for severe, life-threatening reactions to stings, and people who have had serious reactions should talk to their doctor. They may need to carry an epinephrine injector or some other self-administered emergency treatment. Venom immunotherapy may be used to prevent reactions. Meanwhile, know thy enemy:

Fire ants _ reddish brown to black ants that are related to bees and wasps.

Yellow jackets _ black with yellow markings.

Honeybees _ rounded, fuzzy dark-brown body with yellow markings.

Paper wasps _ slender, elongated bodies that are black, brown or red with yellow markings.

Hornets _ larger than yellow jackets with black or brown bodies and white, orange or yellow markings.

MEDICAL TRIAL RESULTS, both good and bad, must be made available to the public, asserted participants at a recent hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. The growing controversy over the practice of publishing only positive study results for new treatments and drugs cheats people of information needed to make health care decisions, critics say. FDA representatives told the panel that private companies cannot be compelled to reveal certain information, but lawmakers wanted to know what law or rule prevents such disclosures. Earlier this month, the FDA decided families should be warned that antidepressants could make children and teenagers more likely to commit suicide. Critics had contended that the agency earlier suppressed reports from researchers who said that the drugs posed that risk. A voluntary registry will be online at beginning Friday, but the verdict is out on how useful the data will be for physicians and their patients, since posting is voluntary.

LUNG CANCER KILLS 150,000 people each year, and while smokers are the most vulnerable some people who never smoke get the disease. Researchers at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute speculated that people with lung cancer who have never smoked might display a different tumor biology and survival rates. An analysis of two groups of patients, 522 smokers and 132 who never smoked, showed the latter group's survival rate was indeed better, perhaps because they had been spared a direct assault from the 55 known carcinogens in tobacco smoke. Understanding those distinctions may lead to better prognoses and treatment, and future studies on lung cancer may do well to separate smoking and nonsmoking patients, Moffitt researchers say.

HEALTH INSURANCE should be guaranteed for all Americans and is as much a necessity as water, gas and electricity, said a majority of Americans in a survey by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of Results for America. Almost three-fourths said they would support regulation of insurance providers so the companies would have to get permission before raising rates. The survey, conducted this month, found that half of U.S. adults who have health insurance coverage have seen their out-of-pocket costs go up or their coverage cut. A third who use prescription medications already buy or are planning to purchase drugs from Canada or other countries to save money. Pollsters say the results cut across political and ideological lines.

_ Staff writer SUSAN ASCHOFF and Times wires