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"Anaphylaxis is a severe and sudden allergic reaction when a person is exposed to an allergen. The most common allergens are eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. cashews), cow's milk, fish and shellfish, wheat, soy, certain insect stings and medications."

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Insulated Medical Waist Bag - Red

Insulated Medical Waist Bag - Red
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The Activeaide Medical Waist Bag was developed at the request of numerous schools that were looking for an insulated and sterile medical quality bag large enough to carry numerous medical and emergency products.
Made to be used at any time, including yard duties, sporting events, camping, hiking and excursions, this new product is versatile and efficient.
This product offers advanced insulation, multiple specialty pockets and is designed for comfort.
  • Fully Insulated
  • Easy Clean Main Cavity
  • Large Front Zip Pocket
  • Mobile Phone Side Pocket
  • Mesh Side Pocket
  • Back Document Pocket
  • Top Lid Tie Down Straps
Holds and protects EpiPen, AnaPen, Twinject and other epinephrine auto injector, Ventolin and other Asthma puffer medications, Bandages, sunscreen, ointments and just about anything you would need.
Insulated Medical Waist Bag - Red

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FEATURE ARTICLE: Insect allergies - more than a nasty sting

by Bianca Nogrady and ABC Health & Wellbeing (Published 24/01/2013)

When it comes to dangerous Australian wildlife you probably don't think of ants, ticks, wasps or bees, but for some people these insects can be deadly.

Think 'dangerous Australian animals' and images of snakes, spiders, box jellyfish or even crocodiles come to mind.

But for a small number of people, the bite or sting of relatively benign insects, such as ants, ticks, wasps or bees can be as deadly as any encounter with far more venomous creatures. Allergic reactions to insect bites or stings are surprisingly common and can be life threatening, says emergency physician Professor Simon Brown, head of the Centre for Clinical Research in Emergency Medicine at the University of Western Australia.

"Of life-threatening allergic reactions [in Australia], about a quarter are due to insects, about a quarter are due to drugs [medications], about a quarter are due to food and about a quarter we can never find a cause for," says Brown.

Insect allergies kill many more people than food allergies, Brown says, and are a close second to drug allergy in terms of fatal reactions. (Interestingly however, in the case of tick red meat allergies, an insect allergy is linked to the development of a food allergy.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) says on average three people die every year from anaphylaxis caused by insect bites or stings. Brown says this is roughly the same as the number of deaths caused by snake bite. Those most at risk are older people or those with severe breathing difficulties.

What is anaphylaxis?

It's not unusual to have a mild local reaction to an insect bite or sting, where the bite becomes itchy, red and swells a little. Some people can also have a rash or large amount of swelling near the bite or sting. It's unusual for people having these type reactions to go on and have more serious reactions.

But sometimes an insect bite or sting will cause a generalised reaction; symptoms of which are often mild, such as hives. In other cases, symptoms are more severe, such as difficulty breathing or a sudden drop in blood pressure, and this potentially life-threatening reaction is known as anaphylaxis.

"You start getting hot, flushed, itchy. You might have a little bit of difficulty breathing, palpitations, heart racing fast and in the worst case, you might just go unconscious," Brown says.

Other signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • noisy breathing
  • swelling of the tongue or throat
  • persistent cough or wheeze
  • difficulty talking or hoarse voice
  • dizziness or collapse
  • pale and floppy

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency and people having this type of reaction need urgent treatment. (See the ASCIA fact sheet for information on First Aid Treatment for Anaphylaxis).

More than an itchy bite

In theory, any insect that bites or stings humans can trigger anaphylaxis in a person who is allergic, says medical entomologist Dr Cameron Webb.

With stinging insects – such as bees, wasps or ants – the insect's venom triggers the reaction, while with blood sucking insects – such as ticks, mosquitoes or bed bugs – their saliva is the trigger. Stings tend to cause more reactions than bites.

"[In blood-sucking insects] the anaphylactic-type reactions tend to be associated with insects that might be having a bigger blood meal as well and are feeding for longer periods, like a tick or in some cases bed bugs, but it probably has to do with the quantity of insects that are biting as well," says Webb, lecturer with the Faculty of Medicine at University of Sydney.

Common stinging insect allergies

In outer urban and rural areas, reactions to insect bites or stings make up a much greater proportion of the cases of anaphylaxis turning up in emergency rooms.

Honeybees are the most common cause of stinging insect allergies in Australia, but ticks, wasps and ants are also known to cause anaphylaxis. The frequency and cause of allergic reactions can vary depending on where you live.

Brown says honeybees are a problem in south-eastern Australia, while paper wasps start to become an issue closer to Queensland. In Western Australia, paper wasps and honeybees are the main cause of insect anaphylaxis.

"If you're in Tasmania, it's mainly jack jumper ants, followed by bees and very occasionally European wasps," says Brown, who headed up the Australian Ant Venom Allergy study.

When researching allergic reactions to Tasmania's jack jumper ant – Myrmecia pilosula – he found the rate of allergy was twice that of honeybees; with around 3 per cent of the state's population having had a significant allergic reaction and anaphylaxis causing a death roughly every two years.

While native stinging ants are more of a problem in Tasmania than elsewhere, this allergy occurs in many parts of Australia.

Ant venom facts

Brown says the three main species of ants that cause anaphylactic reactions in Australia are:

Jack jumper, hopper ant, jumping jackMyrmecia pilosula species complex – There are at least five different species located in Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, ACT, NSW (from the Snowy Mountains up to Armidale in northern NSW) and Western Australia.

This group is responsible for about 60-80 per cent of stinging ant anaphylaxis in Australia, particularly in Tasmania. Researchers have developed a highly effective desensitisation treatment for people allergic to the M. pilosula species found in Tasmania. Unfortunately this program isn't available throughout Australia.

Common bull ant – there are at least four to five different species including M. forficata (found in Tasmania, Victoria, NSW), M. gratiosa (Perth WA) and M. pyriformis (found in Victoria, South Australia and NSW).

Jumping antM. nigrocincta – can be found in SE Queensland and northern NSW.

There are also at least two other species of jumper ants known to cause anaphylaxis in Western Australia, including M. ludlowi.

Other types of ants that can cause an anaphylactic reaction include greenhead ants – Rhytidoponera metallica – and the imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, both found in Queensland.

Tick allergies

Already notorious with dog and cat pet owners the Australian paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus has been known to cauce tick paralysis and tick typhus in humans.

But allergic reactions are the most serious medical condition likely to result from an encounter with these arachnids, found in a narrow band along much of the east Australian coastline. People with a known tick allergy should not attempt to remove a tick, either by pulling it out or by killing it chemically.

"You have to be very careful about how you take the tick out," says Brown. "Anaphylaxsis occurs usually during tick removal because people pull it out the wrong way – they squeeze all the saliva out."

Tick red meat allergy

Ticks have another immunological weapon that has only recently been discovered.

In certain people, exposure to tick saliva makes them severely allergic to red meat. Associate Professor Sheryl van Nunen was one of the first researchers in the world to make the connection, which is thought to be the result of transfer of a mammalian protein from the tick to its human host.

"There are three problems with ticks – the first is tick anaphylaxis, the second is large local reactions and the third is tick-bite-induced meat anaphylaxis," says van Nunen, senior staff specialist in Royal North Shore hospital's Department of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.

This year is expected to be a particularly bad year for tick bite reactions, thanks to a wet 2011/2012 summer.

"Rainfall determines how many ticks there are the next year, so I'm seeing seeing five to six people out of 25 patients each week with tick anaphylaxis or mammalian meat anaphylaxis."

Living with an allergy

As is always the case with allergies, correct diagnosis is essential. Speak to your GP if you suspect you have an insect allergy, they can refer you to an allergy specialist for diagnosis or further treatment.

Treatment options may include:

Action plan and adrenaline autoinjector (such as an EpiPen® or Anapen) – people diagnosed with insect anaphylaxis need to carry these with them all the time.

Immunotherapy – this is only an option for some insect allergies, eg, honeybee or wasps. This process involves exposing a person to increasing doses of an allergen over time. The idea is the immune system becomes used to the allergen and it no longer provokes an allergic response.

ASCIA recommends people with stinging insect allergies should:

  • always carry their Epipen® and action plan
  • wear shoes when they go outside – stings often occur on bare feet
  • wear long sleeves and long pants when walking in the bush, and gloves when gardening
  • avoid provoking insects
  • have nests removed by professionals

Finally...Don't forget that for serious allergies, an Adrenalin Auto-Injector such as the EpiPen® or AnaPen can save lives in an emergency; and the best way to protect your Anaphylaxis Auto-Injector is to use one of the Insulated Activeaide Epipen® cases / AnaPen pouches. Importantly, all of our holders are branded with medical identifications to ensure the medication is easy to identify, and most of our products are zip free, allowing for easy and safe access.

We also carry a great range of medical alert / Medical ID Jewellery / Jewelry that can give emergency medical experts guidance about your condition, possibly saving lifes as a result.