Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. This reaction can happen in a few minutes, or a few hours after exposure to what you are allergic to. Some people are more prone to this than others.
The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction may at first seem similar to other allergic reactions. If this has happened to you in the past, do not let the initial mild symptoms, such as a rash, hives and itching, mislead you. Your reaction can worsen very quickly and become much more severe and life threatening within minutes.
More severe symptoms include:
Trouble swallowing, feeling like your throat is closing
Trouble breathing, wheezing
Hoarse voice or trouble speaking
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps
Feeling faint or lightheaded, rapid heart rate, low blood pressure
Becoming very drowsy, poorly responsive or trouble awakening
Sometimes the cause may be obvious, like knowing you are allergic to peanuts. To help identify your allergen, remember:
When it started
What you were doing at the time or just before that
Any activities you were involved in
Any new products or contacts
Here are some common causes, but remember almost anything can cause a reaction, and you may not even be aware that you came into contact with one of these things.
Dust, mold, pollen
Plants, such as poison ivy and poison oak
Foods such as shrimp, shellfish, peanuts, milk products, gluten, eggs; also colorings, flavorings, additives
Insect bites or stings such as bees, mosquitos, flees, ticks
Medicines such as penicillin, sulfa drugs, amoxicillin, aspirin, ibuprofen; any medicine can cause a reaction
Jewelry such as nickel, or gold (new, or something you’ve worn for a while including zippers, and buttons)
Latex such as in gloves, clothes, toys, balloons, or some tapes (some people allergic to latex may also have problems with foods like bananas, avocados, kiwi, papaya, or chestnuts)
Lotions, perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos, skincare products, nail products
Chemicals or dyes in clothing, linen, cleaners, hair dyes, soaps, iodine
If you are exposed to the same substance again, you may have the same or more severe reaction. Treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine (adrenalin). This is available by prescription as a self-injectable pen. If the cause of your reaction is known, you should avoid exposure in the future. If the cause is not known, follow up with your doctor for special testing to determine what you are allergic to.
If was safe for you to go home, watch for any worsening of symptoms. You may need to be treated again.
One of the key tools in treating anaphylaxis is early use of epinephrine. If you had a severe allergic or anaphylactic reaction, the doctor may prescribe a self- injectable epinephrine kit. If this was prescribed, carry it at all times. It can be life saving. Epinephrine can help stop the progression of an allergic reaction. Its effects are brief, so after you use the medicine, it is still very important to call 911 and get to an emergency room.
When to use injectable epinephrine. Use the epinephrine if you have a history of severe reactions or any of the following symptoms:
Swelling in your mouth or throat
Trouble speaking or swallowing
Feeling faint, low blood pressure, or becoming drowsy or poorly responsive
How to use injectable epinephrine:
Hold the syringe firmly in your hand with the orange (or black) needle end away from your thumb
Be careful not to stick your fingers or hand with the needle!
At the opposite end, pull off the activation cap- the blue or grey tab
Holding the syringe tightly, jab it into the outer part of your upper thigh. This is one of the softest, fleshiest parts of the upper leg, and is not near a major blood vessel or nerve. Be careful not to inject it into your hip or any place that there is a pulse.
You can inject it through pants, but make sure not to inject it into the seam of the pants.
Do not pull it out right away. Try to hold the needle in place for 10 seconds.
Massage the spot for a few seconds.
If you are injecting it in someone else or a child, try to hold them or their leg still. If they jerk or yank their legs away as you are doing it, it can cause a cut on their leg.
You may feel shaky, jittery, nervous, and anxious after the injection. Although it is difficult, try to relax. This is a side effect of the epinephrine, and should stop after a few minutes
Get to the emergency room after using the epinephrine. Its affect will wear off, and you may have a second reaction. This could even happen hours later.
Never intentionally eat, use, or expose yourself to the substance that caused the anaphylactic reaction. Nothing is foolproof, including the injectable epinephrine.
The doctor may prescribe medicine to relieve swelling, itching, and pain. Follow the doctor’s instructions when this medicine.
Oral Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine available at drug and grocery stores. Unless a prescription antihistamine was given, Benadryl may be used to reduce itching if large areas of the skin are involved. It may make you sleepy, so be careful using it in the daytime or when going to school, working, or driving.
Do not use Benadryl cream on your skin, because in some people it can cause a further reaction, and make you allergic to Benadryl.
You may use over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed.
If you were prescribed any medicines to prevent symptoms from returning, be sure to take them exactly as directed.
Rest at home for the next 24 hours.
Avoid tobacco and alcohol consumption. These may worsen your symptoms.
If you know what caused your reaction today, avoid that in the future since the next reaction may be worse. Let your family members, friends and personal physician know about your allergic reaction.
If your allergy was to food, learn how to read food labels so you can check for that ingredient. If a product does not have a label, it is best to avoid it.
Consider carrying an identification card or getting a medical alert bracelet to inform medical personnel of your condition in case you cannot tell them.
Tell all of your healthcare providers know you had an anphylactic reaction. Make certain the information is added to your electronic or paper medical records.
Follow up with your doctor or as advised if you are not improving over the next 1 to 2 days.
Call 911 if any of these occur:
Trouble breathing or swallowing, wheezing
Hoarse voice or trouble speaking
Very drowsy or trouble awakening
Fainting or loss of consciousness
Rapid heart rate
Vomiting blood, or large amounts of blood in stool
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Worsening of your symptoms
Swelling in the mouth or face