What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction to an allergen such as a food or medication, latex or an insect sting. It comes on quickly, often within minutes of exposure, and severely affects several functions of the body.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis?
The following signs and symptoms may indicate anaphylaxis:
- Constriction of the airways, making breathing difficult.
- Swelling, itchy hives (welts), redness.
- The feeling of a lump in the throat that makes it difficult to breathe.
- Itchy mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure.
- Racing pulse.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting.
- Uterine contractions.
How is Anaphylaxis Diagnosed?
Sometimes an allergy that can cause anaphylaxis is not identified until the emergency arises, such as after an insect sting.
If your child experiences the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek treatment at the nearest emergency department or call 911, as it may be life-threatening.
What Treatment is Available for Anaphylaxis?
Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is a hormone that works in several ways to treat anaphylaxis. It constricts the blood vessels, which decreases swelling and raises blood pressure; increases the heart’s contraction and beat rate, helping avert cardiovascular problems; opens the airways; and blocks the release of even more of the chemicals that are stimulating the body’s reaction.
Antihistamines may relieve hives, and inhalers may assist breathing, but epinephrine is necessary to reverse anaphylaxis.
How Can I Protect My Child From Anaphylaxis?
Once the doctor has prescribed epinephrine, your child, depending on his or her age, should be taught how to use the auto-injector. You should review the process with them monthly. For younger children, a parent or other responsible adult will administer the dose.
In addition, you can help protect your child by:
- Avoiding known triggers.
- Meeting with the nurse at the school your child attends to develop/review an individual health care plan and an allergy action plan.
- Seeking emergency treatment after administering the epinephrine.
- Checking the expiration date of the injector on a regular basis.