Attack of the Killer Wasp

My husband has been on vacation from work this week and we’ve been trying to get a few projects done around here while he’s on “Stay-cation”.  (Aren’t those the best kind?!)  We were getting ready to build a double gate for the chicken/soon-to-be goat yard, taking measurements and checking the plumb on the gate posts when we decided one of the posts needed a brace, so I went to the little red barn to pull out a landscape timber from the big pile of scrap wood.  I was standing there, tossing a couple of pieces of wood around, when a wasp spotted me and decided I was a threat to her nest.  She flew out in a fury and quickly stung me on the leg.  Dang!  I hate wasps!

I didn’t think much of it, because I’ve been stung by a wasp before, so once I was over my initial consternation I walked to the backdoor of the basement to get an ice pack out of the big freezer and went back to work.  Some 15-20 minutes later I started feeling really itchy all over.  It was a 95 degree day working outside, so I figured it was just some heat rash.  I told my husband I was really itchy and he said my face looked red and splotchy.  I went inside to check it out and found that I was covered head to toe in awful hives!

Did you know that you can suddenly develop an allergy to stinging insects even when you’ve previously been proven demonstratively to not be allergic?  Neither did I! 

About this time last year I had been stung by a wasp on the forearm when I went to the farm to feed the horses.  I had nothing more than a red, swollen, itchy place on the sting site, maybe 2 inches in diameter.  I have also been stung by my bees 4 times since I got them.  Three of those were on the same day, and one this past April on my cheek.  Those stings barely produced a tiny, itchy bump where I was stung.  (I don’t know to what degree successfully scraping off the stinger that the bees leave behind may have helped me.)

Well, I fortunately had a few Benadryl in the medicine cabinet and I took two of those.  I could feel the swelling getting worse and worse and I got scared so I took a third, crushed up in a glass of water.  In addition to freakish hives all over, my ears puffed and got red-hot, and the skin around my eyes, and weirdly enough the skin on my ankles and wrists puffed up too.  I later learned that this is called angioedema, a step up from hives in symptoms.  I never had any shortness of breath and my lips didn’t swell, thank God.  That would be the next step up–anaphylactic shock.  I live 20 minutes from the nearest hospital!

After looking around on the internet for some advice (and not knowing that I should have been calling 911), I figured I better go to the Quick Care, just in case.  They weren’t open and after the long drive there sitting in front of the AC turned on full blast, my hives started going away.  We stopped in Fruth and picked up some liquid Benadryl (faster acting) and I took another dose of that and decided to go home.  The ER is so expensive, even with insurance, it’s prohibitive.  I was glad to not have to go.

I called my family doctor today to see if I needed an appointment with an allergist and she chewed me out for not going to the ER.  She said I was lucky I had Benadryl and that it could have been BAD.  She called me in an Rx for methyprednisolone (don’t read the papers that come with it or you may think you’d rather not take it anyway–nasty stuff).  She told me I could still react to the sting even a couple of days later and told me to keep taking 25 mg of Benadryl 3 times daily.  My leg is so swollen I can’t make out my kneecap, but the Rx seems to be helping that go away.  I’ve got a doctor’s appointment Monday.

Soooooo… Lesson learned:  Any allergic reaction to a sting is a bad one.  If you have itching/redness/swelling anywhere other than the sting site, it’s an allergic reaction.  If you have shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or your lips start to swell–you are in big trouble.  You should call an ambulance/head for the ER before any of those things happen, because you don’t know at what point the allergic reaction will stop progressing and you would rather be safe than sorry!  Not being able to breathe is a bad thing.

If you are like me and think you’re too tough to go to the ER and didn’t know this stuff before, well now you do!  Be careful stomping around in those barns this time of year, ok!

I am hoping and praying that this will not stop me from keeping bees.  I have read that you can be allergic to wasps and not be allergic to bees.  They also have a desensitization program they can do for bee stings as well.  I am guessing that the 3 rounds of antibiotics I’ve had in the past two months (2 for an abscess tooth and a Z-pac for bronchitis) may have messed with my immune system and brought on this sudden allergy for me.  I’ll know more when I talk to my doctor Monday.

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