As I watched the very sad and tragic story of the young mother who died from a brain aneurysm, triggered by an anaphylactic reaction from a bee sting, I began to think of ways to help people help themselves in this situation.
Allergic reactions happen to many people, from many different causes. Most reactions are coupled with hives, redness and itching that usually requires Benadryl, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to stop the reaction. Where things take a bad turn is when the allergic reaction becomes anaphylactic or systemic, involving multiple body systems, including the airway. Whether the allergy is to bees, peanuts, shellfish or penicillin, the end result can be death. It is this group of people that are usually prescribed an Epinephrine stick pin, which allows a patient to immediately self-administer or have someone close administer the drug, immediately following the exposure.
A person with severe allergies should have their Epinephrine with them all of the time. Another helpful piece for others is that the patient should have a medical alert bracelet or necklace, stating their medical emergency. If a person has a bracelet that states anaphylaxis, then people should look for the Epinephrine somewhere on their person. An immediate call to 9-1-1 is vital in this situation, as well. If a person is by himself or herself and has life threatening allergies, then they have to take every precaution possible to prevent the exposure, but if an exposure occurs, then they must be able to self-administer their Epinephrine, as well as have access to a phone to call 9-1-1.
Concerning allergic reactions, most people do not show signs or symptoms on the first exposure. It is usually on the second exposure to the allergen. In the anaphylactic reaction, there is a systemic body reaction that occurs. Mast cells release large amounts of histamines, airways swell and occlude, the gastrointestinal system begins to dump and a vasodilatation occurs. In the case of the young mother, she was pregnant and must have had a weak place in a brain artery. When the systemic effects of the bee sting began to occur, the aneurysm in her brain must have burst. It is hard to say how quickly the effects of an allergic reaction will occur, but in some people’s cases the effects are immediate, requiring immediate life saving measures.
This is the time of the year for bee stings, as well as the many other things that people are usually allergic to. It is hard to prevent people with allergies from coming into contact with all things that they are allergic to, but preventative measures must be taken. We found a yellow jacket nest in my son’s back yard, the other day. Once found, these things must be dealt with. Knowing about a person’s allergies, and then being diligent to prevent exposure at all costs is vital. However, exposures still occur, so knowing how to administer life saving Epinephrine and calling for 9-1-1 are the next steps in the process. I can say that I remember the patients that I dealt with who suffered from anaphylaxis, years later. Do everything possible to help yourself, if you suffer from life threatening anaphylaxis, which may mean telling others around you.