Man in brush with death after wasp sting

Stephen Wykes had no idea he was allergic to wasp stings until it was almost too late.

The paramedic was trying to get rid of a wasp nest in a tree stump at his partner's property in Dargaville on Monday when a wasp stung him on the back of his neck. Within 10 minutes he was close to death.

"I'd put in some stuff to get rid of them and was packing up when one of the wasps attacked me. I felt all right and drove home and just got into the driveway and felt funny."

He turned to his daughter Tamara and said he didn't feel well. "And that's the last thing I remember."

Mr Wykes had gone into anaphylactic shock, a severe reaction to the wasp sting he had developed. "I've never been allergic until this point. I've been stung heaps of time before, that's why I didn't think anything of it." He's treated patients for anaphylactic shock before and couldn't believe the speed of his own reaction.

It's believed anaphylactic shock kills up to two people in New Zealand each year and symptoms can include diarrhoea, constricted breathing, and a drastic drop in blood pressure.

The 51-year-old said he owed his life to his daughter, who called for help, and his colleagues. One of the first to respond was Mr Wykes' partner Shirley Baume, also a paramedic, who was shocked to see the condition he was in.

He now had to carry an EpiPen - a dose of adrenaline - and a medic alert bracelet in case he was ever stung again.

What to do

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction, often affecting several parts of the body, including either breathing difficulties, a sudden drop in blood pressure, or both.

If someone is suffering from anaphylactic shock an ambulance should be called immediately.

Keep the person calm.

If the person has emergency allergy medicine on hand, help them take or inject the medication. Avoid oral medication if the person is having difficulty breathing.

Take steps to prevent shock. Have the person lie flat, raise the person's feet about 30cm, and cover with a coat or blanket.

- Andrew Koubaridis of the New Zealand Herald

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