Ever heard of somebody dying of a bee sting? Yes, bee sting, which is usually not a matter of much concern, can be fatal in people who are hypersensitive to bee sting venom. The venom when injected in the body, induces an allergic reaction that involves the whole body. Death may happen depending upon the intensity of the allergic reaction against the bee sting venom which the body mistakenly identifies as an allergen.

Allergy is the term used when body’s immune system overreacts to harmless substances and causes reactions such as runny nose, itchy eyes, skin rash and aggravates sense of smell, touch, sight and taste resulting in irritation, disability and in extreme cases death. Substances that cause allergy are called as allergens.

Introduction to anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis means “against protection” and derived from Greek words “ana”, meaning against and “phylaxis” meaning protection.

Anaphylaxis is a serious, critical, potentially fatal, hypersensitive, allergic response. When any foreign substances also termed as antigens enter into the body, body’s defense mechanism (immune system) recognizes these antigens and produces certain antigen-specific protein substances called as antibodies or immunoglobulins (Ig). This process of producing specific immunoglobulin (Ig) is called sensitization.

When the sensitized body comes into contact with the antigen once again, these antibodies recognize the antigen, and cause the cells of the immune system to release inflammatory chemical substances including histamines. These chemical substances may produce various symptoms of anaphylaxis such as reduction in blood pressure, breathing problems such as wheezing, swelling, dizziness, and loss of consciousness leading to life threatening situation.

In acute cases, the blood pressure may drop suddenly and swelling or inflammation may occur in the respiratory tract causing symptoms of breathlessness, and choking which can be fatal leading to the death of the affected person, if not treated in time. These symptoms may develop quickly within minutes, and can last, sometimes, for days.

Causes of anaphylaxis

Several allergens may trigger anaphylaxis.

Certain foods are known to cause anaphylaxis. Fish and shellfish including shrimps, lobsters and crabs; peanuts including tree nuts such as walnuts or peacans or cashews or hazelnuts; eggs and egg products may cause anaphylaxis. In children milk or milk products can trigger anaphylactic reactions. Sometimes even fruits may cause anaphylactic responses.

Antibiotics namely penicillin or penicillin based medicines, aspirin, over the counter pain relievers, shots for allergy or medical dyes used in radiological procedures. And muscle relaxants used in anesthesia.

Stings from bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, fire ants and sawflies can set off anaphylaxis.

Latex products such as surgical hand gloves, medical products and various rubber products made for home use.

Indulging in aerobic exercises such as jogging is reported to trigger anaphylaxis. In some people, less intense outdoor activities such as walking may cause anaphylaxis. Consuming certain foods before and after exercise may increase the risk of anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis symptoms can begin within minutes of exposure to the allergen and sometimes it may take longer. Some of the general symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Skin reactions: Itching, flushing, swelling or pale skin.
  • Breathing problems: Swelling of tongue and throat may cause problems in swallowing or breathing, constriction of airways or constriction of throat.
  • Miscellaneous: Dizziness, sudden feeling of doom, vomiting sensation, nausea or sensation of fainting, abdominal cramps, wheezing or diarrhea. Rapid and irregular pulse and low blood pressure.

It is a container that is used to store all the essential items required to provide aid immediately in case of anaphylactic shock. Your doctor can help you or prescribe the medicines required and the items to equip the emergency kit. Some of the essential items may include the following:

  • Epinephrine shot: It is an injection of epinephrine which needs to be injected into your arm or leg. This is one of the very important medications needed to counter anaphylactic shock.
  • Antihistamine medicines: Your doctor may prescribe antihistamine either in tablets or in injection or ointment or lotion to arrest the allergic reaction.
  • Inform your family and friends: Keep your family and friends about the substance you are allergic to, and teach them as to how they should use in case you suffer from any anaphylactic shock.

You should be well informed about the ways you can use to treat yourself when you suspect that you are having anaphylactic shock symptoms. If you have anaphylaxis emergency kit, take the shot of epinephrine either by yourself or take the help of some one near you. If the anaphylaxis first aid kit contains any antihistamine medicine prescribed by your doctor, ensure to take the same.

If you are having difficulty in breathing, let someone do cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (CPR is an emergency procedure rendered to people who suffer from heart attack or respiratory failure) on you to ease the breathing problem till the medical care is available.

Subsequent to the anaphylactic shock treatment, you will be able recover soon and be able to get into your normal life. But it is important that you should recoup completely to resume your normal life. To prevent any recurrence, take the help of your friends or relatives so that someone stays with you and keeps a watch on you at least for a period of 24 hours after the anaphylaxis. Some times to confirm anaphylaxis it may be necessary to take you blood and urine samples to conduct required tests. This is also important to avoid the recurrence anaphylaxis in the future.

Inform your doctor if you already had an anaphylactic attack or episode. Ensure to include in your medical history. Check with your doctor whether you require any desensitization shots. Ask your doctor about other substances you could be allergic to. If you are allergic to insect stings, ensure to wear protective cloths when you go outside. Avoid barefoot walking.

If you are allergic to any ingredients, fruits or vegetables, then avoid eating any foods made out of these substances.

Ensure to wear a medical emergency bracelet to inform others about your condition. Always keep an anaphylactic emergency kit or first aid kit when you travel or let your family and friends know as to what they should do in case of emergency due to anaphylactic shock (shock due to anaphylaxis).