Throughout the year I spend a lot of time providing training on Anaphylaxis. This is a condition that is growing rapidly and can affect anyone at any time. It is really important to observe allergies on yourself and members of your family. If you notice that your sensitivity to certain foods, medicines etc is getting worse make sure you consult your Doctor. Here is a bit of info for you on the condition:
Anaphylaxis, also known as anaphylactic shock, is an allergic condition that can be severe and potentially fatal.
Anaphylaxis is your body’s immune system reacting badly to a substance (an allergen), such as food, which it wrongly perceives as a threat.
The whole body can be affected, usually within minutes of contact with an allergen, though sometimes the reaction can happen hours later.
What to do
Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency.
If someone becomes severely ill or collapses soon after an insect bite, eating a particular food or taking medication, call for an ambulance and tell the operator that you think the person has anaphylaxis. Remove the trigger if possible.
An adrenaline injection must be given as soon as a serious reaction is suspected
If there is no improvement within 5-10 minutes, a second injection may be needed. Recovery normally occurs fairly quickly once adrenaline has been received.
If the person has had a mild reaction with only skin symptoms (itchiness or a rash), adrenaline may not be necessary and they may just need antihistamines and steroids.
The reaction is unpredictable and varies from mild itchiness and swelling to severe and life-threatening symptoms.
If you have a severe anaphylactic reaction, you will experience a sudden drop in blood pressure and narrowing of the airways, which causes breathing difficulties and wheezing.
You will usually experience sudden swelling around the eyes, lips, genitals, hands, feet and other areas.
Anaphylaxis can be triggered by a wide range of foods and other substances. The most common food triggers include nuts, sesame seeds, shellfish and eggs.
Sometimes a person can be so sensitive to a particular food that they can develop anaphylaxis just by breathing in particles from it, such as dust from nuts.
Anaphylaxis can also be caused by an allergic reaction to wasp or bee stings, natural latex (rubber) and certain drugs, such as the antibiotic penicillin.
Anaphylaxis should always be treated as a medical emergency. It can be fatal unless immediate treatment is available.
If someone becomes severely ill or collapses soon after an insect bite, eating a particular food or taking medication, call for an ambulance and tell the operator that you think the person has anaphylaxis. Remove the trigger (allergen) if possible.
An adrenaline injection (epinephrine) must be given as soon as a serious reaction is suspected. If the person is carrying an adrenaline injection kit, they may be able to inject themselves (see the box, right) or you can help them to use it.
If there is no improvement within five to 10 minutes, a second injection may be needed until the condition improves. Recovery normally occurs fairly quickly once adrenaline has been received (see the box, left).
First aid advice
- If the person is having difficulty breathing, help them to sit up.
- If they have low blood pressure, get them to lie flat and raise their legs.
- If they are unconscious, check their airways are open and clear and check their breathing. Then put them in the recovery position (see below).
Putting someone who is unconscious in the recovery position ensures that they do not choke on their vomit.
Place the person on their side, ensuring that they are supported by one leg and one arm. Open the airway by tilting the head and lifting the chin.
If the person’s breathing or heart stops, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) should be performed. See Useful links for a guide on how to perform CPR.
Admission to hospital
Even if adrenaline is given, the person will probably need to be admitted to hospital for observation for up to 24 hours as occasionally the symptoms can return a few hours later.
An antihistamine or corticosteroid injection may be given, sometimes with fluids through an intravenous drip.
The person will be advised to avoid any substance to which they are sensitive, especially if they have had a previous anaphylactic reaction.
Adrenaline will be prescribed for future emergencies, so the person can inject themselves with adrenaline from a preloaded syringe (see the box, right).
The person should also carry an emergency card or bracelet with full details of their allergy and contact details of their doctor, to alert others.
The person will be advised to arrange a follow-up visit with their GP.
If the person has had a mild reaction with only skin symptoms (itchiness or a rash), adrenaline may not be necessary and they may just need antihistamines and steroids. The allergen should be removed if possible.
All cases of anaphylaxis should be treated as an emergency. Even in mild cases, an ambulance should be called so the person can get immediate medical attention.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE
- Grasp EpiPen® in dominant hand, with thumb closest to grey safety cap
- Pull off grey safety cap (Fig. 1)
- Jab black end of the EpiPen® firmly into outer thigh, through clothing if necessary (Fig. 2)
- Hold in place for 10 seconds (Fig. 3)
- Remove EpiPen® from outer thigh
- Massage injection area for 10 seconds
- Ensure EpiPen® is disposed of safely as the needle will be exposed (Fig. 4)
- Each EpiPen® can only be used once
BE PREPARED: Administer a second EpiPen Auto-Injector after 5-15 minutes if patient does not respond or original symptoms return.