Coping with anaphylaxis

Many individuals have experienced anaphylactic shock to insect sting venom, and whilst the visible physical anaphylactic journey can be very different for different people, patients nearly always suffer from a very similar emotional trauma. Anaphylactic shock is a horrible and terrifying condition for patients and their families. The psychological trauma is considerable and is an effect that many doctors and professionals seem to simply ignore once the physical shock has been treated.

For those individuals who are seriously allergic to insect stings – and by that we mean those who have systemic reactions to insect stings which are life threatening – ordinary day-to-day living suddenly takes on a very different perspective. The emotional impact of living with anaphylaxis to insect stings is rarely considered by the medical profession and whilst some do acknowledge the loss of quality of life, many just consider it an inconvenience which can be lived with by the patient.

In my experience of running this website offering support to victims of insect sting allergy, the great majority of patients feel that the emotional trauma has a greater impact on their lives than doctors could ever imagine. In some ways the long term emotional shock is worse than the short lived anaphylaxis itself.

It is really tough Common Waspto have to limit activities with the constant threat of being stung and the awful after-effects. There are many dilemnas that the patient has to face on a daily basis – for example is it worth risking being stung by going out into the garden, posting a letter, or watching the children play sport? It may seem strange, but for those who have suffered the terrifying effects of anaphylactic shock, the desire to avoid any future recurrence dominates life in the summer months.

It is for this reason that despite the very modest risks associated with venom immunotherapy that many doctors are now realising that simply dispensing an Epipen to the patient is not enough and that venom immunotherapy offers a genuine alternative that can radically improve quality of life. I have corresponded with several hundred patients since our website started in 2002, and with only a very few exceptions no patient regrets entering into venom immunotherapy. This treatment offers them a really effective way of controlling their allergy by reducing the allergic response and blunting the emotional trauma.

In addition to venom immunotherapy, it is strongly recommended that patients who feel emotionally scarred by the trauma of anaphylaxis should talk over their feelings with fellow patients or professional counselors.

For some interesting research:

Analysis of the burden of treatment in patients receiving an EpiPen for yellow jacket anaphylaxis
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 118, Issue 3, Pages 699-704
J. Oude Elberink, S. van der Heide, G. Guyatt, A. Dubois