Anaphylaxis

What is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is an acute and very severe allergic reaction. Minute amounts of allergens may cause a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. It can occur within seconds or minutes of exposure to something you are allergic to. Anaphylaxis may occur after ingestion, skin contact, injection of an allergen or, in some cases, inhalation. Anaphylactic shock, the most severe type of anaphylaxis, occurs when an allergic response triggers a flood of chemicals released by your immune system which can cause your blood pressure to drop suddenly and your airways to narrow, blocking normal breathing. Anaphylactic shock can lead to death in a matter of minutes if left untreated.

Anaphylaxis isn’t all that common, though many people are at risk of having an anaphylactic reaction. If you have a history of allergies or asthma, you may be at increased risk – especially if you’ve had a serious allergic reaction or an anaphylactic reaction before. Most of these people successfully avoid their allergens and will never experience anaphylaxis. Of those people who actually experience anaphylaxis, up to 1% may die as a result. Future reactions may be more severe than the first reaction.

Medications used to treat anaphylaxis include:

  • Epinephrine (adrenaline)
  • Oxygen
  • Antihistamines
  • Beta agonist (such as albuterol)
  • Steroids (prednisone)

 

How to use the EpiPen® Auto-Injector

  • Sit in a chair or lie down. Never use epinephrine while standing.
  • Remove EpiPen® from box and amber colored tube.
  • Grasp with your dominant hand placing your thumb closest to the gray cap.
  • Use your other hand to remove the gray cap, being sure not to touch the spring loaded black tip at the other end.
  • Hold the EpiPen® with the black tip toward the outer thigh.
  • Press the EpiPen® into the thigh at a 90 angle. You will hear a “click”. Continue holding the pen steady and in place for 10 seconds.
  • Remove the EpiPen® and gently massage the injection site.
  • After using the EpiPen® press the needle against a hard surface bending it backwards along the shaft of the auto-injector.
  • Return the EpiPen® to the amber tube.

 

Signs & Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • Hives
  • Intense itching
  • Nasal congestion
  • Facial swelling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Palpitations
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Nausea, Vomiting & Diarrhea

Causes of Anaphylaxis

Common Causes

  • Medications
  • Foods
  • Stinging Insects

 

Less Common

  • Latex
  • Exercise

Call 911 for transportation to the nearest emergency department for monitoring and additional treatment. The effects of epi- nephrine may wear off in 10-20 minutes.

 

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