Sting almost proves fatal

TOM Plunkett is lucky to be alive today after being stung by a wasp in his back garden.For some that might merely mean a swelling and some pain but for Dr Plunkett who is allergic to their poison it could mean death.

By Jessica Nicholls

TOM Plunkett is lucky to be alive today after being stung by a wasp in his back garden.

For some that might merely mean a swelling and some pain but for Dr Plunkett who is allergic to their poison it could mean death.

Having been stung before he knew he was within minutes of death if he could not get medical attention fast.

Ironically on the same day, a lorry driver also stared death in the face after being stung by a bee as he drove along the A12 at Yoxford.

Both men were stung on the neck which could be more serious as the poison pumps around the body quicker and the neck is in danger of swelling up and restricting breathing.

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Their horror comes just days after North London man Anthony Maguire died five minutes after being stung by a wasp as he cooked breakfast for his wife and two children.

Severe allergic reactions such as this are known as anaphylaxis.

For Dr Plunkett of Henley Road, Ipswich, who is former keeper of archaeology at Ipswich Museum, a scorching lunchtime in his back garden rapidly turned into a nightmare when he got stung while inspecting a leaking outhouse.

He said: "I knew immediately that it was a wasp sting - you get a sensation of the poison spreading around your whole body and the pain is not just localised."

Having being stung in the neck, Dr Plunkett was doubly worried as he feared that his whole neck could swell up as a reaction and stop him breathing.

Dr Plunkett had been stung before and knew that he had to take some anti-histamine tablets as soon as possible to delay the possibly fatal reaction.

Although he had taken the anti-histamines, he knew the reaction could spark up again at any time and needed desperately to get a shot of adrenaline.

Dr Plunkett said he had been stung several times before and had always been treated by a doctor but during Sunday's incident no-one was able to get to him soon enough and as he was alone in the house he had no other option than to dial 999.

He said: "I was beginning to panic and I was getting short of breath.

"I did not feel that I could drive to hospital in case I collapsed on the way there."

On their arrival they gave him some adrenalin and oxygen and took him to Ipswich Hospital.

He said: "The crew were lovely and absolutely fantastic, I am extremely grateful to them.

"I felt that I might be wasting their time but I knew that if I didn't something terrible could have happened to me.

"They told me that I had done exactly the right thing."

FOR a lorry driver in a layby at Yoxford, things could have been even worse than they were for Dr Plunkett.

As traffic drove by he managed to stumble from his cab and a passing motorcycling couple stopped to help.

Rapid Response paramedic Kevin Kane from Beccles was sent to the scene where the man was already unconscious within just a few minutes.

The lorry driver had been stung before and had injected himself with an adrenalin pen which known sufferers of anaphlyaxis often carry - but it was three years out of date.

He was given more adrenalin, oxygen and anti-histamines - all the drugs that should help him but the driver was still not out of the woods.

Kevin said: "He probably only had minutes to live it was that bad.

"We were getting no reaction from him, all his vital signs were dropping, for example his blood pressure, his heart rate was rising and he was becoming tachicardic which can lead to cardiac arrest."

When an ambulance arrived from Ipswich they managed to get him on a stretcher and on his way to hospital

Kevin said: "He was very unstable all the way to hospital, his heart rate was going up and down."

But the man, believed to be in his 40's reached the hospital on time where he made his recovery.

According to East Anglian Ambulance Trust figures in July, 16 people in Suffolk were taken to hospital with some form of anaphylactic shock rising from just three in June.

Mike Grimwood is service manager for animal welfare and pest control at Ipswich Borough Council.

He said that contrary to popular opinion, wasps don't sting just for the sake of it.

He said: "Wasps sting for defence purposes.

"When you try and swat them or brush them away they think you are trying to have a go at them."

Wasps will also sting when defending their queen in the nest.

Mr Grimwood said that the reasons there are more stings as the summer goes on is because there are more wasps around.

He said that when the Queens first come out of hibernation in around May time the nests are small and have only a few hundred wasps inside. But by September there could be at least six or seven thousand wasps - therefore as the summer goes on there are more and more wasps about.


Anaphylaxis is a word used for serious and rapid allergic reactions which if severe enough can kill.

n. It is not just bee and wasp stings that cause anaphylaxis - common causes are some foods like nuts and seafood, drugs and even Latex such as in rubber gloves and seafood. For some sufferers no cause can be found.

n. Symptoms include: an itchy nettlerash, faintness and unconsciousness, swelling, swelling in the throat, vomiting, asthma symptoms.

n. Death can be caused due to obstruction of breathing or extreme low blood pressure (anaphylactic shock)

n. Anaphylaxis can sometimes be mild and need no treatment - death is a rare occurrence.

n. Adrenaline (epinephrine) is a highly effective treatment and needs to be given as an injection. For serious attacks it is vital treatment.


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