First Aid for Anaphylaxis

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is the term used to describe a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis can cause shock and critical respiratory distress and circulatory breakdown.

Anaphylaxis may occur up to several hours after being exposed to a specific allergy causing substance. However, in sensitive people, anaphylaxis can occur within minutes.

Allergy-causing substances

Anaphylaxis can be cause by a wide variety of substances including insect venom, pollen, latex, and some foods and drugs. Some people experience severe allergic reactions from unknown causes.

Anaphylaxis signs and symptoms

People with anaphylactic reactions may experience swelling in the face, eyes, or lips. The inside of your throat might also swell to the point that you’ll have difficulty breathing, or go into shock. You might also break out in hives. During a severe allergic reaction, your blood pressure drops and your internal organs can be affected. You may also experience mental confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, or diarrhea.

How you can be ready

If you have experienced anaphylactic reactions before, be prepared by carrying medications with you all the time. Epinephrine is the most widely used medication for several allergic reactions. It’s an injection that should be prescribed buy your doctor. Epinephrine can be self-administered using an auto-injector such as the EpiPen. Administer as directed. Have your family and friends the read the injection directions as well.

You should also carry an antihistamine pill, such as diphenhydramine because the effects of epinephrine are temporary. Seek medical help right after taking these medications.

If you are with someone who is having anaphylaxis:

  • Check for medications that the affected person may be carrying to treat an allergic attack. Examples include auto-injectors of epinephrine. Administer the medication as directed. Massage the site of injection for 10 seconds to improve absorption.
  • After administering epinephrine, give the person an antihistamine pill if he or she can swallow it without choking.
  • Make the person lie still on his or her back with his or her feet higher than the head.
  • Loosen the person’s tight clothing and cover him or her with a blanket. Don’t give him or her anything to drink.
  • If there is vomiting or bleeding from the mouth, turn the person over on his or her side to prevent choking.
  • Administer CPR is the person is not moving, breathing or coughing.

Source: Mayo Clinic