Anaphylaxis

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also called anaphylactic reaction or anaphylactic shock, is a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

Symptoms occur in a severe and rapid way throughout the body. The most common symptoms include:

What are the causes of anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis occurs in response to any allergen. The most common causes are allergies to food, to drugs and to insect stings or bites.

Can anaphylaxis be prevented?

If you have a severe allergy to something it is important to see an allergy specialist for treatment. The doctor will suggest doing your best to avoid the allergen that triggers the reaction, and will prescribe emergency medication to take if you start to have an allergic shock. This medication is fast-acting and aims to prevent the reacting advancing to anaphylaxis.

What is the treatment for anaphylaxis?

If you see someone suffering from anaphylaxis, first of all, it is necessary call for emergency help, then check the airways, breathing and circulation. If necessary, give mouth-to-mouth breathing and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Once you have ensured they are breathing and their heart is beating, you must:

  • help the person to take emergency medication (if any)
  • lay the person horizontally, raising the feet at least 30 cm, and covering them with a blanket (do move the person if you suspect a head, back, neck or leg injury)
  • if the reaction is due to the sting of a bee, scrape the sting of the skin with your fingernails or with a credit card, but not with tweezers.

Do not put a pillow under the person’s head or give them anything by mouth if they are having trouble breathing.

When the paramedics arrive, treatment may involve:

  • placing a tube through the nose or mouth or perform emergency surgery to place a tube in the windpipe to open the airway
  • providing medication to combat the symptoms of the allergic reaction.
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