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Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that occurs rapidly and can be deadly. This form of reaction is considered as a medical emergency and requires immediate medical care. It requires immediate administration of epinephrine and call for emergency assistance for further treatment and transfer to a healthcare facility.

What is epinephrine?

The main medication used to manage anaphylaxis is epinephrine. This medication is given via injection. The ideal way to inject it is in the muscles of the exterior part of the thigh. In case the symptoms do not settle rapidly, another shot is given again in 5-30 minutes.

Children who are old enough can be instructed to administer a shot if needed. The medication is available as an auto-injector to make it easier to administer.

Epinephrine must be prescribed to those who previously had anaphylaxis and those at high risk.

Epinephrine must be prescribed to those who previously had anaphylaxis and those at high risk. There are 2 doses available that is based on the weight of the child. Remember that there should be at least 2 doses available always.

Indications of anaphylaxis

It is important to note that anaphylaxis causes a variety of symptoms that often occur rapidly. The severe symptoms limits breathing and blood circulation. A combination of symptoms can occur which can affect the following:

  • Skin – itchiness, redness, hives and swelling
  • Mouth – itchiness and swollen lips or tongue
  • Nose – stuffiness, sneezing and runny nose
  • Throat – tightness, itchiness, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing
  • Chest – coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain and tightness
  • Heart – shock, weak pulse, passing out
  • Stomach – diarrhea, abdominal cramping, vomiting
  • Neurologic – fainting, dizziness, feeling of impending doom

What are the causes?

Anaphylaxis develops if the immune system overly reacts to normally harmless substances known as allergens.

The usual allergens capable of triggering anaphylaxis include the following:

Foods such as:

  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Tree nuts such as pistachios, walnuts, cashews or pecans
  • Shellfish such as lobster or shrimp
  • Fish such as salmon, tuna, cod

Insect stings from:

  • Yellow jackets
  • Bees
  • Wasps
  • Fire ants
  • Hornets

Medications such as:

  • Antibiotics
  • Anti-seizure medications

It is important to note that any medication even aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have the potential to trigger severe allergic reactions.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on anaphylaxis is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage allergic reactions including anaphylaxis, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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