A Successful Run but with a Sting in Its Tail

I’ve been following the Couch to 5K programme for the last 6 weeks. I’ve never been one for running, except for a few intervals on a treadmill; although I’m not sure that counts as real running. I fancied a change and a new challenge. But I might tell you about that another time. My reason for writing is this.

The Morning of the Run

Last Saturday was my final session of week 6 which involved running for 25 minutes without stopping. Although I felt pretty good, I was apprehensive. I had a feeling that this one would be tough.

I did manage to complete the 25-minute run but with great difficulty. Plus I loathed every minute. What followed though was a most peculiar incident. Let me explain.

The reason that I had struggled was this. Right at the beginning of the run, I was trotting along minding my own business when I felt a searing pain in my left side. It really did take me by surprise. I quickly realised that it was some sort of sting, presumably a wasp. It did damn hurt though. Although having been stung before, I didn’t remember it being so painful.

I considered turning back but decided to carry on and to stop being such a baby. Sure enough, the stinging did subside a little although it didn’t go away entirely. But I soldiered on until the end. On arriving home, exhausted, I told my husband Lee about my experience and peeled off my running gear.

The Venom Strikes and the Reaction

Very quickly, I felt a really strange sensation all over my body. It was like my skin was tingling and I suddenly felt cold. Then my hands started to itch profusely. I thought that it might be something to do with after run adrenaline. Then Lee looked at my face and said, “God, you look rough”. What a charmer. When I saw myself in the mirror, I could see that I looked very odd indeed.

My eyes were puffy, almost like I’d had an extremely heavy night. I still thought that it might be adrenaline related but knew that I’d looked fine earlier. And what was going on with my hands and skin? Next, my face felt odd all over and I could see that both my eyes and nose were swelling. When I scrunched my nose, the skin across it was tight. Now I was starting to worry. I did though think to take an antihistamine.

We decided that I should call 111, the medical helpline number. I spoke with an operator who quickly put me through to a paramedic. After a short discussion and having established that I was with someone who could drive me, she told me in no uncertain terms that I should to go to A&E.

A&E – Really? 

You are kidding, I thought, it’ll be a nightmare at A&E especially on a Saturday morning. But by now I was pretty worried and my face was rather rotund so off we went. When I checked in at A&E, the receptionist said that I would be seen in a minute. Yeah right I thought but, sure enough, they called me in to see a nurse a couple of minutes later. I guess that, for all they knew, I could be going into an anaphylactic shock so they had to fast track me.

The nurse checked my stats which were ok and decided to send me to see the GP. By now, I could feel that the swelling had started to go down. After another short wait, the GP called me through and checked me over again. Thankfully, he told me that the antihistamine was doing its job and that I could go home. He gave me some more antihistamines and said that if I became wheezy later, I should take one and call an ambulance as I’d need an adrenaline shot. He did say that was unlikely though but I took another antihistamine a few hours later just in case. Needless to say, I was absolutely fine.

Thoughts after the Sting

It’s important to know that anyone can have an adverse reaction to an insect sting or bite, even if they’ve not had a reaction previously. I have had wasp and bee stings in the past and so thought that I’d be fine. I was very lucky; my airways weren’t affected, only my face and ears. I also had random rashes across my body.

The reason that we, well I and the GP, think that it took so long for the reaction to occur was that the running gear I was wearing was pretty restrictive. So it had held the venom in place and, when I took the clothing off, it hit my bloodstream.

Well, that was a scary experience. The moral of this story is never to underestimate the power of antihistamine. If you think that you’ve had an insect sting and feel strange, take one straight away. Doing so certainly helped me. By the time that I was seen by medical staff, the antihistamine had worked and I was able to go home quickly.

I have to say that I was most impressed with all staff at the 111 helpline and at A&E. The NHS is truly a fantastic service and we are very lucky to have it.

To conclude, whilst rare, some do have a far worse reaction than mine. If you have symptoms of anaphylaxis or think that your airways may be compromised, call 111 or 999 for help and guidance without delay.

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