Anaphylaxis: What should I do?

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Anaphylaxis is a serious and dangerous form of allergic reaction. Generally, if an individual is allergic to a substance, the immune system overly reacts by releasing chemicals. These chemicals are responsible for causing the allergy symptoms.

The difference with this reaction is that it is more severe. The indications of anaphylaxis might include hives, swelling, low blood pressure, wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing. In such cases, an individual might progress into a state of shock. If treatment is delayed, this reaction can be deadly.


Anaphylaxis might start with significant itchiness of the face or eyes. In just minutes, it can progress to include more serious symptoms such as:

An effective treatment for an acute case of anaphylaxis is a shot of epinephrine.
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Swelling that causes issues with breathing and swallowing
  • Hives and angioedema
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

If an individual develops these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. The reaction can swiftly trigger rapid heart rate, drop in the blood pressure, sudden weakness, shock and loss of consciousness and even death.

How is it diagnosed?

Anaphylaxis can be diagnosed based on its symptoms. Individuals who have a history of allergic reactions might face a higher risk for developing a severe reaction in the future.

A skin test and blood test might be used to confirm the substances that can trigger the severe reactions. If anaphylaxis is suspected, testing must be carried out under the guidance of a specialist.

Management of anaphylaxis

An effective treatment for an acute case of anaphylaxis is a shot of epinephrine. This works rapidly to reverse the symptoms. The individual can administer a shot on his/her own, usually on the thigh.

If an individual is suspected of a severe reaction, call for emergency assistance right away. Take note that CPR and other life-saving measures might be required.

In case the individual could not breathe, the medical team might place a tube via the nose or mouth into the airway or even perform tracheostomy.

Aside from epinephrine, the treatment for shock includes intravenous fluids and medications to support the heart and circulatory system. Once the condition of the individual is stabilized, antihistamines and corticosteroids might be given to minimize the symptoms.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on anaphylaxis is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage this type of allergic reaction by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

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