Anaphylaxis: – Do you know what to do?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction to venom, food, or medication. Some of the most common cases are caused by a bee sting or eating foods that are known to cause allergies, such as nuts. In effect when your body comes into contact with foreign substances, it produces antibodies to defend itself from these substances. In most cases, the body doesn’t react to the antibodies being released. However, in the case of anaphylaxis, the immune system overreacts in a way that causes a full-body allergic reaction. In today’s world were we are raised in much more sterile environments our immune systems may not build all the defences we need against allergens therefore making us more susceptible to reactions to a greater number of what could previously have been considered to be minor irritations.
Anaphylaxis causes a series of symptoms, including a rash, low pulse, and shock, which is known as anaphylactic shock. This can be fatal if it isn’t treated immediately.
Some of the symptoms will include
There may be a dramatic fall in blood pressure (anaphylactic shock). The person may become weak and floppy and may have a sense of something terrible happening. This may lead to collapse, unconsciousness and – on rare occasions – death.
In addition to those severe symptoms listed above, there may also be:
- The casualty may be come weak and floppy
- The casualty could become anxious and disorientated
- There could be facial swelling, itchy skin and an onset of a rash
- Widespread flushing of the skin
- Abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty breathing and swallowing
So what do we do?
- Call 999 for an ambulance immediately (even if they start to feel better) – mention that you think the person has anaphylaxis.
- If an auto enjector (otherwise known as an Epipen) is available then use it by removing the blue cap at the end and driving the other end into the thigh or the bottom. The medicine will be delivered within the first 5 seconds of application
- Someone experiencing anaphylaxis should be placed in a comfortable position. Most people should lie flat
- Pregnant women should lie on their left side to avoid putting too much pressure on the large vein (the inferior vena cava) that leads to the heart
- People having trouble breathing should sit up to help make breathing easier
- People who have lapsed into unconsciousness should be placed into the recovery position and closely monitored to ensure that they still have the ability to breath normally. Should the person lose the ability to breathe normally then we must immediately commence CPR
Anaphylaxis may be caused by a variety of different triggers.
If you have a peanut allergy your immune system will launch an attack anytime it senses the proteins in peanuts. This will cause the release of chemicals that trigger symptoms like itchy hives, nausea, or facial swelling. Peanut allergies are common in the United States.
Some people have severe peanut allergies. When they’re exposed to even the tiniest trace of peanuts. .
An anaphylactic reaction often starts within seconds after someone with a severe allergy eats peanuts. Rarely, symptoms can appear minutes or hours after exposure.
You can be treated for a severe reaction, think you’re perfectly fine, and then develop a second reaction hours or days later without being exposed to peanuts again. A reaction that occurs long after you’ve been exposed is called delayed or late phase (biphasic) anaphylaxis.
Symptoms of a delayed anaphylactic reaction can show up an hour or more after you were exposed to peanuts. Some people don’t start to see symptoms until a few days later.
Common anaphylaxis symptoms include:
- swollen face, eyes, lips, or throat
- wheezing or trouble breathing
- weak, fast pulse
- pale skin
- sudden feeling of body warmth
- dizziness or fainting
- itchy skin
The symptoms of a delayed reaction can be more or less severe than symptoms of an immediate reaction.