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Wasp Sting Was Nearly Fatal

Wasp sting was nearly fatal! Anything that triggers a serious allergic reaction calls for emergency treatment. Epinephrine saves lives.

Most people are not allergic to wasp or yellow jacket stings. Sure, they hurt like heck, but they do not result in life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. People who are allergic to such a sting are in grave danger if they get stung. First, there is pain, itching or swelling in the area of the sting. But then come other systemic symptoms: whole body itching or rash (hives), breathing problems, swelling of lips or throat, dizziness, head pain, nausea, digestive distress, hypotension (low blood pressure), fast heart rate, feelings of impending doom and loss of consciousness.

A Wasp Sting Could Trigger Anaphylactic Shock for This Person:

Q. Thank you for warning that a wasp sting could trigger a life-threatening reaction. I have had an anaphylactic reaction to a food preservative, so I know how scary that is.

After I experienced three wasp stings over several years, with each reaction faster and more severe, my allergist prescribed an epinephrine injector.

He instructed me to call 911 immediately following an injection and to wait for help, using the second injector if help has not arrived within 20 minutes. I am NOT to drive myself or be driven to the ER because I might pass out in the car. Please alert your readers.

A. An epinephrine injection can be lifesaving during a severe allergic reaction! Make sure your epinephrine auto-injector has not expired.

Here Is Why We Warn About Anaphylactic Shock After a Wasp Sting!

Q. A person wrote to you about a wasp sting. Although you mentioned the risk of anaphylactic shock in your response, I think you should have informed the writer that the next sting could be fatal.

I was stung by a wasp and my hand swelled. Two weeks later, I was stung again and immediately took a Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and put ice on my forehead. Within minutes, I was on the floor with no pulse or blood pressure.

Thanks to the Benadryl and to the paramedics who started two IVs before they got a 40/20 blood pressure reading, I am alive to tell about it. Since your writer had a severe reaction, it is obvious that she has an allergy to wasps and her next sting might be fatal. She and your other readers should be informed of this.

A. It can be difficult to determine when someone will develop anaphylactic shock in response to a sting. That said, you are right that the next sting might be fatal.

We urge anyone who has experienced a serious reaction to a sting to be evaluated by a physician. For those who are at risk of life-threatening anaphylaxis, keeping an EpiPen or some other injectable epinephrine handy for self injection can be life saving. Even after an injection with this prescription epinephrine, emergency medical treatment must be summoned.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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