Warm weather season is here again in Ohio.
There are so many things I love about it– longer days, the kids playing outside, flowers blooming, pool time, and a slower pace of life.
But there is also one thing I dread more than anything each year.
No, it isn’t the humidity that makes my hair frizz beyond control or the high temps that cause instant sweat the second you step outside. It is not the annoyance of almost nightly firework launchings becoming acceptable in my neighborhood from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It isn’t even the three hours my husband spends “mowing” the lawn at least once a week.
Yep, bees. I’m not talking about the bumblebee variety that just flies around and would let you pet them if you caught them. I am not even talking about the teeny little sweat bees that are more a nuisance than anything. The bees (and wasps, really) that I am talking about are those black and yellow striped bees that will sting you and sting you again all the while laughing at your pain.
It isn’t that I have a phobia of bees or even getting stung that makes me hate bee season. It is much more nefarious than that — I am allergic to bees.
A bee sting could literally kill me.
I have a severe allergic reaction to bees. It is the kind of reaction that can cause swelling and trouble breathing among other things. My reaction is such that I have carried an EpiPen for the last couple of decades.
I’m not alone in this either.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that five percent of the US population is affected by insect sting allergies. At least 100 deaths occur each year due to anaphylaxis from insect stings. They also report the number of individuals prescribed an EpiPen each year for various allergies is 3.6 million Americans. Over 300,000 emergency room visits take place each year for anaphylaxis-related issues.
I recently ended a decades-long string of “Not getting stung” luck.
We won’t get into all the gory details about how the bee got into my house or how my husband supposedly took care of the bee the day before it stung me, but obviously didn’t and I could have died. No, we’ll just leave it at the sting was completely awful and painful, but also severely tested my fight or flight response. I was home alone when it happened and it was a scary moment.
The whole incident did end up serving as a teaching moment for my whole family. It forced us to sit down and make our “fire escape” plan if Mom gets stung by a bee or wasp. Everyone in my house now knows where the EpiPens are located and my husband and daughters know how to administer one if I can’t do it myself.
I can 100% assure you that I most definitely did not remain calm.
No, in fact, as soon as it happened I began hyperventilating and sobbing. The sting site immediately started swelling and I was having a difficult time breathing. It was hard to even remember where my EpiPen was let alone open it and administer it. It took me multiple jabs into my thigh to trigger the needle to auto-inject.
The use of an EpiPen is simple enough, but remaining calm will help with a smoother execution of use.
The EpiPen Itself
Would you know how to use an EpiPen if you had to inject yourself or someone else?
Sure, the information is printed on the box and the pens in three easy steps, but could you easily administer it in a moment of high stress?
The caps on the pens are hard to take off and there is a reason for that. You certainly don’t want to be accidentally injecting yourself or anyone else when you are carrying around an EpiPen. It is important to move quickly to remove the cap and any safety releases.
Once the cap is off then the shot is administered by taking a swing with a firm push or jab into the outer thigh. This can be done through clothing so there is no need to worry about stripping anything off in order to receive or administer the shot. If you are receiving the EpiPen you will feel the needle and hear a click as it injects. If you are helping someone else by injecting them, listen for the click. The needle needs to remain in the thigh for at least three seconds in order for the epinephrine in the pen to be delivered to the body and then you should massage the injection site for about 10 seconds.
Some EpiPen kits come with a trainer pen that has no needle in it. You can use it multiple times to practice opening it and administering an injection.
It had been years since I had a kit with a trainer included, but when I refilled my prescription this year I requested a pen with a trainer. Practice makes perfect and my family and I can all practice how to efficiently and accurately execute the shot should we need to.
Get emergency medical help.
It is incredibly important to seek emergency medical help after using an EpiPen. You could need an additional injection or further medical help. Also, be sure to take the used EpiPen with you to the ER. They will dispose of it for you.
After my shot, I got to spend four hours in the ER on a Benadryl drip with an ice pack on my sting site. The ER doctor explained that this was a standard precaution for anyone with a sting allergy once an EpiPen has been used. I was monitored to make sure that I didn’t have more of a reaction once the epinephrine left my system. Lucky for me, the EpiPen worked exactly as it should have and the IV insertion was the worst of my ER stay.
Would you know what to do?
If you or someone you know has an allergy that causes them to need an EpiPen it is important to know how to help if a reaction occurs because seconds count.