Anaphylaxis is basically a severe allergic reaction and potentially fatal if not treated promptly. This reaction typically occurs when an individual with a severe allergy is exposed to a particular allergen particularly insect stings, food or medication. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that entails immediate emergency care.
During a mild allergic reaction, the symptoms typically occur in one particular area. It is different with anaphylaxis since the symptoms involve more than one bodily system, particularly the respiratory and circulatory system. This will trigger the manifestation of symptoms in just minutes after exposure to the potential triggers but can also be delayed for some time.
Risk factors for anaphylaxis
Even today, there is no test that can accurately predict when anaphylaxis will occur. This is the reason why a doctor should be consulted. It is important to note that there are risk factors that can put an individual at higher risk for developing anaphylaxis.
- Those who experienced a previous anaphylactic reaction
- A reaction that develops when the skin came in contact with an allergen
- Individual who have moderate to severe or uncontrolled asthma
- Those who have underlying cardiovascular disease
- Those who experienced a severe allergic reaction after being exposed to a small amount of the offending allergen
It is important to note that anaphylaxis is usually preceded by less severe symptoms of an allergic reaction.
- Skin rash (welts, hives)
- Swelling of the lips, face and eyes
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Itchy or runny nose and sneezing episodes
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
Severe symptoms (Anaphylaxis)
- Swelling of the tongue and/or throat
- Difficulty speaking or swallowing
- Vocal changes (hoarseness of voice)
- Difficulty breathing
- Wheezing or persistent coughing
- Dizziness, loss of consciousness and collapse
First aid for anaphylaxis
If an individual shows any symptoms of anaphylaxis, there are steps that you should follow in order to properly care for the individual.
Initially, you have to stay with the individual and call for help. You can provide any medications for mild reactions that have been prescribed to the individual such as antihistamine. In case any severe symptoms are present, the following must be done:
- Position the individual flat (if breathing is difficult, allow him/her to sit but do not allow to walk or stand)
- Utilize the epinephrine auto-injector if available
- Call for emergency assistance right away.
- If the victim is a child, contact the parent or guardian.
- Remember that an additional dose of epinephrine can be given if there is no response after 5 minutes.
If in doubt, you have to administer a shot of the epinephrine auto-injector. Once anaphylaxis is suspected, do not delay in administering epinephrine if available. This is the initial treatment of anaphylaxis even before oxygen and other resuscitation measures. Once given, bring the individual to the nearest emergency department for further care.