RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — For people with severe allergies, a bee sting or a dose of antibiotics can quickly turn life-threatening.
If you haven’t had an allergic reaction by the time you’re an adult, you probably assume you’re in the clear, but that’s not always the case.
CBS 17 Storm Team meteorologist Laura Smith shared her recent experience in hopes of warning others.
After going most of her life without a bee sting, Smith was recently stung for the first time, and experienced swelling on her leg. She didn’t think too much of it, until a month later when she was stung again.
“This time, within 30 minutes, I started having some major reactions,” she said. “Confusion, shortness of breath, hives, itching all over my body.”
She made it to urgent care.
“It was really scary; I got there just in time,” she recalled. “They stuck me with an EpiPen, and I instantly felt relief.”
After that, an ambulance took her to the hospital for observation.
Smith was grateful she knew the signs of a severe allergy, even though she never realized she had one.
“I thought I was in the clear, and I wasn’t in the clear,” she noted.
Dr. Edwin Kim, an allergist with UNC Health, says it’s important to know what to look for and when to seek help.
“The number one symptom we’re looking for is itch,” he explained. “Where we get most nervous is if it affects breathing in any way, so whether that’s going to be kind of difficulty getting in air or coughing or wheezing like you might have asthma or even swelling in the throat area.”
“Those are absolutely ones where you want to get that emergency epinephrine as quick as possible,” Kim added. “EMS will typically have that as well as some first aid kits.”
He says some people don’t become aware of allergies until adulthood. It’s also possible to develop allergies as an adult.
Kim says the most frequent allergy to develop in adulthood is an allergy to medication like antibiotics.
“It just seems to be with added exposure,” he explained. “Your immune system somehow doesn’t regulate itself and actually becomes sensitive to it. As a young kid who’s only been exposed to medications once or twice, maybe not so much, but after multiple uses of antibiotics or whatever else, there might be some adults who could become allergic.”
If you have a severe allergy and carry an EpiPen, Dr. Kim says it’s important to use it if you need it.
“So many patients, not just kids, but adults as well, decide not to use the lifesaving epinephrine because they’re scared of the injection itself,” he noted.
Smith now carries her EpiPen any time she’s out running. While she hopes she’ll never need it, she’s glad she has it just in case
“I feel safe now,” she said. “That eases my mind.”