A hamster, much like this one, bit its owner who then suffered an allergic reaction
A man nearly died after being bitten by his familys pet hamster.
The 50-year-old victim suffered an extreme allergic reaction and went into anaphylactic shock, which causes serious breathing problems. He tried to treat himself with drugs he carries to treat a number of allergies but they had little effect.
Worried relatives dialled 999 and paramedics arrived to find the man unconscious and turning blue because his airway was blocked.
He was taken to hospital where doctors managed to improve his condition with a series of injections. Last night the man, who has not been named, was recovering in hospital in Redditch, Worcestershire.
Hamster experts said they had never heard of such a case in the UK, although a man in Japan died three years ago after a bite from his pet. A post-mortem found that the man, in his 40s, had suffered a fatal bout of asthma in an allergic reaction to a protein in the animals saliva.
Wendy Barry, secretary of the British Hamster Association, said last night: "I have kept hamsters for 20 years and Ive never heard of this scenario in this country.
"Someones immune system would have to be very, very compromised for there to be such drastic consequences.
"Hamsters dont normally carry any diseases that would affect humans. In fact, there is more chance of a hamster catching something from a human."
The drama on Monday night happened after the hamster escaped when the mans seven-year-old daughter took it out of its cage at their home near Evesham, Worcestershire.
It disappeared under floorboards and the victim was bitten as he tried to recapture it.
Paramedic Stuart Philp said: "It was a highly unusual situation, We got the initial call to an allergic reaction but we didnt realise it was from a hamster until we got there.
"Calls to allergic reactions are fairly common but its usually wasp or bee stings or sometimes people are allergic to medication.
"When the crew went in the man was unconscious. He was still breathing but the situation was clearly life-threatening.
"He is known to be allergic to penicillin so he keeps medication in the house.
"He had adrenaline injections in the form of Epi-pens, which many allergy sufferers carry.
"He would usually have to take only one but he had taken three and they hadnt had any effect.
"People react in different ways to different chemicals, Its hard to say why this man reacted in this way. Its just a case of a particular hamster and a particular man its very unlucky."
Peter Logsdail, spokesman for the National Hamster Council, warned: "Hamsters have teeth like razors. They are tiny animals, but people are often surprised to see that their incisors are half an inch long.
"If you got caught in the wrong way, the teeth would meet through the middle of a human finger.
"Hamsters are normally docile but will bite if they are frightened or nervous."
West Midlands Ambulance Service said: "The man suffered a serious and severe reaction to the bite.
"If you have been identified as someone who can have severe reactions it is vital that you and your family know what to do.
"The mans actions in administering drugs to himself may well have played an important part in his recovery."
Anaphylactic shock happens when the immune system overreacts to a substance it perceives as a threat.
Chemicals are released which act on blood vessels to cause swelling.
This can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and headaches, with life-threatening difficulty in breathing because of swelling of the windpipe. Scientists have yet to discover why such a severe reaction happens.
Story by David Wilkes for The Dailynail.