For certain individuals, bee and other insect stings can cause a severe allergic reaction known as ana-phylaxis. This reaction is characterized by itchy skin, swelling of the lips, throat, or tongue, head-ache, nausea, dizziness, and breathing difficulties.
Beekeepers should have an EpiPen (or two) on hand to deal with such reactions.
An EpiPen is an auto-injecting syringe filled with epinephrine. When injected, epinephrine constricts the blood vessels, relaxes lung muscles, reverses swelling, and stimulates the heart.
Because the life-saving effects of epinephrine only last ten to twenty minutes, it is recommended that you have multiple EpiPens on hand so that you can make it to the hospital. One syringe may not be enough, especially if you are in the country when an allergic reaction occurs.
After injecting yourself, call 9-1-1. Bring the used EpiPen with you to the emergency room. EpiPens come in a regular dose for adults over sixty-six pounds and in an injector (EpiPen Jr.) for children weighing thirty-three to sixty-six pounds. Bring every pen you have used so the ER personnel will know how much epinephrine you have taken.
The manufacturer recommends jabbing your outer thigh with the EpiPen (after removing the gray safety cap). No need to remove your bee suit. Hold in place for ten seconds, then massage the injected area. Do not inject the buttocks.
The manufacturer of EpiPens recommends that the pens be stored at room temperature.
Do Not Refrigerate.
Do Not Store in Glove Box.
To check your EpiPen to make sure it is still good, observe the fluid. If it is colorless it is probably okay. If it is brown, it is time to get a new one. Also, EpiPens have a “use by” date on them.
This article originally appeared in the March, 2015, issue of The Skep, the newsletter of the Houston Beekeepers Association.
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