Anaphylaxis: All I Need to Know

Anaphylaxis: All I Need to Know

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening severe allergic reaction that can occur very rapidly and if not reversed on time can lead to fatality.

What are the Common Causes of Anaphylaxis?

  • Food: Any food. Common ones include peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, milk, fish.
  • Medication
  • Insect bites
  • Latex: rubber gloves, condoms

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis?

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are important. This can be life-saving. Involvement in any of the 2 systems of the body should lead to prompt immediate treatment with epinephrine.

What are the Treatments for Anaphylaxis?

Epinephrine

  • Epinephrine or Adrenaline is the only medication that reverses severe anaphylaxis. 
  • It is usually prescribed and comes in ‘pen’ form known as Epipen. You are usually provided with guidance on when, where, and how to use the EpiPen when a severe allergic reaction occurs. Speak to your doctor to enquiry further.
  • The effect of epinephrine can wane off after 15 to 20 minutes. Repeated doses of epinephrine may be required if there is an inadequate response with the previous dose, or symptoms recur after 15 min of the previous dose.
  • After delivering epinephrine, the casualty needs to be brought to the emergency department as soon as possible for monitoring of further late second phase anaphylaxis. Late phase anaphylaxis can occur up to 20% of acute anaphylaxis.

Antihistamines

  • Antihistamines are used to alleviate skin symptoms and the sensation of itch. It should not be used as a substitute for epinephrine. This is because antihistamines do not reverse any cardiovascular or respiratory compromised symptoms.

Steroids

  • Steroids are often prescribed to avoid the late phase anaphylaxis reaction that tends to occur several hours after the initial allergic reaction. However, steroids do not reverse acute symptoms of anaphylaxis.

Asthma Inhalers

  • Asthma inhalers may be helpful in asthma, wheezing symptoms. However, it should not be substituted as epinephrine in treating acute anaphylaxis.

How can I Prepare and Prevent Anaphylaxis?

Prevention is always better than cure

  • One should be aware of the specific allergens if there was a history of anaphylaxis and avoid the culprit allergens by all means.
  • The home environment should be constructed in a conducive, allergen-free environment if possible.
  • Ensure you read through the ingredients labels of either food or medications prior to consumption.
  • Use latex-free gloves.
  • Have a written strategy plan and rehearse the plan over again for initiation for treatment if anaphylaxis occurs at home.

Prepare and Be Ready

  • Store your anaphylaxis medication in a location that is easily accessible.
  • Medications should be kept in room temperature as the extreme temperature will affect the effectiveness of the medications.
  • Replace Epipen if it has expired.

Recognize and Act on Anaphylaxis Promptly

  • Identify the clinical symptoms of anaphylaxis.
  • Administer the auto-injectable Epipen and other medications. 
  • Call 995, inform people around you for assistance.
  • Go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

Remember, anaphylaxis is completely reversible if managed promptly. However, any delay in anaphylaxis can be lethal.

Take care, stay safe.

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