Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction that develops at a rapid rate. This reaction is also called as anaphylactic shock. The indications that an individual is experiencing anaphylaxis include the following:
- Raised, reddened skin rash or itchy skin
- Engorged lips, eyes, hands and feet
- Swelling of the mouth, tongue or throat that can lead to breathing and swallowing difficulties
- Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain
- Collapse and loss of consciousness
What to do if an individual is experiencing anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis should be considered as a medical emergency. If on hand, a shot of adrenaline must be given as soon as possible. Some individuals who have previous episodes of anaphylaxis are prescribed an auto-injector of adrenaline. This is administered into the outer thigh muscle and held in place for 5-10 seconds. For those who were prescribed an auto-injector for the first time, the doctor can provide instructions on how to administer a shot. Family members and friends must also learn how to use the device in case of emergencies.
Always call for emergency assistance whether adrenaline has been administered or not. In case after 5-10 minutes the individual still feels sick, another injection can be given at the opposite thigh.
The individual must lie flat with the legs elevated on a low table to chair. If he/she experiences difficulty breathing, he/she can sit up to make breathing easier. In case the individual loses consciousness, move him/her in the recovery position. If the heart stops or breathing ceases, CPR must be carried out.
What are the triggers?
Anaphylaxis is due to overreaction of the immune system to a harmless substance such as food. The substances that activate the reactions are known as allergens. This severe reaction develops in just a matter of minutes of exposure to the allergen, but oftentimes the reaction can be postponed up to four hours later.
How to prevent anaphylaxis
If the triggers are identified, it is vital to take the necessary steps to avoid exposure in the future. The individual might be referred to an allergist or if the triggers are already known, further assessment and instructions will be given to avoid them in the future.
In most cases, two auto-injectors of adrenaline/epinephrine can be prescribed to be used during any future episodes of anaphylaxis.
Who are at risk for anaphylaxis?
Always bear in mind that anaphylaxis is not common, but can occur among individuals of all ages. Individuals who been diagnosed with other allergic conditions such as an allergic skin condition specifically atopic eczema or asthma face are at high risk for end up with this severe reaction.
Even though the condition is considered life-threatening, the cases of reported deaths are rare. As long as prompt and proper treatments are carried out, many individuals are able to achieve full recovery.