20.06.2024

Why you really SHOULD be wary of wasps

It’s a warning that all wasp-haters will dread — being stung may cause a stroke. That is exactly what happened to a 60-year-old in , doctors have revealed.

Medics suggested he was lucky to survive what is thought to be the first case of its kind ever recorded.

The rare stroke he suffered has a ‘very high’ mortality rate, they wrote in a medical journal.

Sharing his case as a warning to doctors to be aware of the potential complication, experts also revealed stings can trigger ‘catastrophic’ organ damage or even leave sufferers in a vegetative state.

Attending hospital three days after the attack, the unidentified man complained of headaches and a stiff neck. He also experienced redness and swelling around the stings. Pictured above, the redness and swelling caused by two of the stings on the man’s back

Attending hospital three days after the attack, the unidentified man complained of headaches and a stiff neck. He also experienced redness and swelling around the stings. Pictured above, the redness and swelling caused by two of the stings on the man's back

And they can, in extremely rare cases, prove fatal. Wasp or bee stings kill up to 10 Brits and 60 Americans every year.

This is usually because the body can have an allergic reaction to the venom, resulting in anaphylaxis — a complication that can kill in minutes.

The estimated lethal dose for humans in stings alone is around 500 to 1,500 strings. But anaphylactic reactions are not dose-dependent.

‘Millions of cases of stings occur every year worldwide,’ the team from Yulin First People’s Hospital said in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The potential dangers of wasps

Wasps usually only sting when they feel threatened.

A wasp sting often triggers an inflammatory response which can lead to anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, can kill within minutes.

According to the NHS, it occurs when the immune system overreacts to a trigger.

Symptoms include: feeling lightheaded or faint; breathing difficulties – such as fast, shallow breathing; wheezing; a fast heartbeat; clammy skin; confusion and anxiety and collapsing or losing consciousness.

It is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

However, writing in  The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, medics at Yulin First People’s Hospital in southern China, medics said a bee or wasp sting could also in rarer cases multiple organ damage.

It could also trigger heart attacks or even rhabdomyolysis — a life-changing muscle condition or strokes, they added.

The unidentified man, from a rural area, attended hospital three days after being stung, complaining on headaches and a stiff neck.

He also experienced redness and swelling around the stings.

However, he told medics had not suffered any head trauma.

Doctors who treated him found he had high blood pressure, was breathing quicker than normal and his body temperature was slightly below average.

They also noticed four sting marks on his head and neck.

A CT scan did not reveal any ‘significant abnormalities’.

But a lumbar puncture — where a thin needle is inserted between the bones in the lower spine to take fluid from the spinal cord — indicated he may have had a stroke.

It was only the following day when the man’s headache worsened and he vomited, while still in hospital, that he was diagnosed.

He was found to have suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage — a rare stroke caused by bleeding on the surface of the brain.

Often a subarachnoid haemorrhage is instead triggered by a ruptured aneurysm — a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel in the brain.

But doctors admitted they couldn’t be sure how the stoke happened in this case.

It is believed the venom may have caused a capillary or vein to burst in the brain, however.

While cases have been logged in medical literature after a bee sting, they believe this is the first caused by a wasp.

The mortality rate associated with the rare stroke following an insect attack ‘is very high’, medics noted.

But it is likely that many more deaths may be occurring, mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks, stroke or attributed to other causes, according to Allergy UK.

The man was discharged after being monitored for 14 days.

‘When patients with wasp stings complain of headache and neck stiffness, clinical decisions should be made as soon as possible to avoid a misdiagnosis,’ medics advised.

‘This may allow patients to be correctly diagnosed with wasp sting-induced SAH at an early stage, and appropriate intervention may improve the prognosis.’

The date of incident was not revealed in the case report.

THE CAUSES OF STROKE

There are two major kinds of stroke:

1. ISCHEMIC STROKE

An ischemic stroke — which accounts for 80 per cent of strokes — occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.

2. HEMORRHAGIC STROKE

The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.

Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 per cent die within 24 hours. And 40 per cent of survivors die within a week.

RISK FACTORS

Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA (a mini stroke) are all risk factors for having a stroke.

SYMPTOMS OF A STROKE

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

OUTCOMES

Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.

This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.

TREATMENT

Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.

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