An anaphylactic reaction can be caused by being stung by a bee or a wasp if the person who is stung is allergic to the venom. As bees in particular, leave the stinger containing the poisonous sac embedded in the skin, the sooner you can remove the stinger, the less chance you have of suffering an allergic reaction.
However, if you suspect someone has gone into anaphylactic shock, it’s important to get them to hospital immediately. Some people who are only too aware of their allergy to bee and wasp stings will carry a syringe with them containing ephinephrine which is basically adrenaline which you can inject into the fleshy part of their thigh but they should advise you about this so that you know what to do in the event that they are stung.
However, there may be an occasion when somebody you’re with is stung and neither of you are aware that they have an allergy to bee or wasp stings so you, too, should also be aware of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, even if you’re not a sufferer yourself.
These can include a burning or tingling sensation on the skin, particularly to the extremities such as your fingers. People can also develop hives on their body. However, the problems become much more severe if the victim starts to suffer from breathing difficulties. Their airway can start to constrict which, in the early stages, might result in a lack of oxygen being able to reach to the brain. This often means that the victim may start to become mentally confused and they may start acting irrationally and can start experiencing severe anxiety and feelings of doom.
It may also result in a rapid drop in blood pressure and, in severe cases, the lack of oxygen, as their airway constricts even more, can cause respiratory failure which in turn can lead to the victim falling unconscious, experiencing a heart attack and can cause irreparable damage to the brain and other vital organs.
Other less severe symptoms can include nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and cramping. It should be noted that the symptoms experienced will differ from person to person and some people who are allergic to stings will only experience some of the more minor symptoms. However, anaphylaxis can be life threatening and it’s important that epinephrine is administered as quickly as possible.
Epinephrine (adrenaline), usually injected into a fleshy area of the thigh, is the only real counteraction to anaphylaxis. It makes the blood vessels contract, preventing any further fluid leaks and it relaxes the airways which makes breathing easier. Even if the victim carries epinephrine with them and injects themselves or is able to get you to inject them, the effects of the medication only last 10 or 20 minutes for each injection so it’s important that you still call for an ambulance or take the victim to hospital yourself. The medication will also relieve any cramping symptoms the victim might be experiencing and stops hives and itching.
Once they are in hospital, the victim might be given oxygen to improve breathing and may also be given intravenous fluids which will help in restoring their blood pressure back to normal levels. They may also be given other medications to counteract the effects of histamine and to prevent any further allergic reaction which might be delayed.
The crucial thing to remember if you know you’re at risk from suffering anaphylaxis is to wear an appropriate medical tag around your neck so that medical professionals can be alerted to the symptoms far more quickly and to carry an auto-injector containing epinephrine (often called an ‘Ana-Pen or ‘Epi-pen’) around with you and know how to use it.