Discharge Instructions for Anaphylactic Shock

You have been diagnosed with a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis happens within minutes of exposure to an allergen. Common causes are penicillin, nuts, intravenous (IV) contrast dyes used for some X-rays and scans, a bee sting, or latex products. In anaphylaxis:  

  • Blood pressure drops suddenly

  • Less oxygen reaches your brain and other organs, and your body goes into shock

  • An itchy red rash called hives may appear

If not treated quickly, anaphylactic shock can cause death.

Home care

Tips for home care include the following:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about carrying an EpiPen. This is a single-dose injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). With the kit you can give yourself a shot of medicine that will help to stop the allergic reaction until you can get medical help.

  • Learn how to give yourself an epinephrine shot so that you are prepared. EpiPens come with instructions, but you can also ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.

  • Make sure you always have more than one EpiPen. Carry one kit with you. Keep others where they are easy to find, for example, at your work desk, or in a gym or tote bag.

  • Check the expiration date of your EpiPens regularly.

  • Avoid the things that cause your allergic reaction whenever possible.

  • If you have a food allergy, always ask about ingredients when eating food prepared by others. At a restaurant, tell your waiter about your food allergies.

  • Wear a medical identification bracelet with the information about your allergy. Ask your healthcare provider how to get one.

  • Tell your family, friends, and co-workers what they should do if you have a severe allergic reaction. Include:

    • How to use the EpiPen. Tell them to give you the shot if you can't.

    • Your position during a reaction, having you lie down with your legs raised.

    • Calling 911.

    • Starting CPR if you stop breathing.

  • Tell all of your healthcare providers about your allergies.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about allergy shots (immunotherapy).

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider.


When to call the healthcare provider

Call 911 right away if you have:

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast pulse

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Swelling of your lips, tongue, or throat

  • Itchy, blotchy skin or hives

  • Pale, cool, damp skin

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion