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Anaphylaxis: What You Need to Know

By Dr Evelyn Lewin

Posted  April 26 2017 | 0 Shares

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Allergies are widespread and much more common among kids than we’d like. While the majority are mildly annoying at best and extremely uncomfortable at worst, there’s one type you need to watch out for: anaphylaxis.

What are allergies?

Allergy symptoms appear when the body comes into contact with a foreign substance it deems harmful. As soon as this substance enters the body, the immune system releases antibodies to attack and destroy it.

This release of chemicals often produces systemic effects like itching, hives, red eyes, and a runny nose. While uncomfortable, it’s also a sign that the body is at work protecting itself.

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also known as an anaphylactic shock, is a severe, life-threatening form of allergic reaction. It usually happens within minutes of the allergen coming into contact with the body. The immune system essentially overreacts to the allergen, causing a massive flood of chemicals to be released into the body, which in turn triggers severe inflammation. The swelling of the throat is usually part of the inflammatory reaction, and it can be so extreme that the patient is unable to breathe.

What are the symptoms of anaphylactic shock?

The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are, thankfully, very easy to recognize:

* Skin reactions such as hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin
* Low blood pressure
* Wheezing and difficulty breathing due to constricted airways and swollen tongue and/or throat
* Weak and rapid pulse
* Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
* Dizziness or fainting
* Hoarse voice
* Swollen lips, tongue, eyelids, and under-eye area

How do we treat and manage anaphylaxis?

An anaphylactic reaction needs immediate treatment — DO NOT wait for symptoms to disappear. Call a doctor right away or take your child to the emergency room.

If they carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen), administer it immediately. You should still go to the emergency room, because there is a chance that the reactions will recur. This is called a biphasic anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine is also called adrenalin or adrenaline, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter. It increases heart rate, blood flow to the muscles, pupil dilation, and blood sugar.

Your doctor can prescribe this medication for your child, teach you how to use it, and give you an anaphylaxis action plan. Keep your child’s adrenaline in an easy to reach location at all times, and make sure they know how to use it.

Take an Epi-pen with you when you go out with your child, and have them bring it even if they go out without you.. Make sure your child’s daycare or school is aware of her condition. Give a second Epi-pen to your child’s school and ask that staff know how to use it correctly in case of an emergency. Ensure the school does not allow your child to eat other children’s food.

Other medications may be needed to treat anaphylaxis, but none are more important initially than adrenaline. Other medications that may help include steroids and antihistamines. It is important to identify the trigger for anaphylaxis (the substance that set off the reaction), and avoid it. If your child has another anaphylactic reaction, give adrenaline (Epi-pen) immediately and call an ambulance.

Reviewed by Dr Evelyn Lewin 26 April 2017 references
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This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

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Anaphylaxis: What You Need to Know

AILMENTS

Allergies are widespread and much more common among kids than we’d like. While the majority are mildly annoying at best and extremely uncomfortable at worst, there’s one type you need to watch out for: anaphylaxis.

What are allergies?

Allergy symptoms appear when the body comes into contact with a foreign substance it deems harmful. As soon as this substance enters the body, the immune system releases antibodies to attack and destroy it.

This release of chemicals often produces systemic effects like itching, hives, red eyes, and a runny nose. While uncomfortable, it’s also a sign that the body is at work protecting itself.

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also known as an anaphylactic shock, is a severe, life-threatening form of allergic reaction. It usually happens within minutes of the allergen coming into contact with the body. The immune system essentially overreacts to the allergen, causing a massive flood of chemicals to be released into the body, which in turn triggers severe inflammation. The swelling of the throat is usually part of the inflammatory reaction, and it can be so extreme that the patient is unable to breathe.

What are the symptoms of anaphylactic shock?

The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are, thankfully, very easy to recognize:

* Skin reactions such as hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin
* Low blood pressure
* Wheezing and difficulty breathing due to constricted airways and swollen tongue and/or throat
* Weak and rapid pulse
* Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
* Dizziness or fainting
* Hoarse voice
* Swollen lips, tongue, eyelids, and under-eye area

How do we treat and manage anaphylaxis?

An anaphylactic reaction needs immediate treatment — DO NOT wait for symptoms to disappear. Call a doctor right away or take your child to the emergency room.

If they carry an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen), administer it immediately. You should still go to the emergency room, because there is a chance that the reactions will recur. This is called a biphasic anaphylaxis.

Epinephrine is also called adrenalin or adrenaline, which is a hormone and neurotransmitter. It increases heart rate, blood flow to the muscles, pupil dilation, and blood sugar.

Your doctor can prescribe this medication for your child, teach you how to use it, and give you an anaphylaxis action plan. Keep your child’s adrenaline in an easy to reach location at all times, and make sure they know how to use it.

Take an Epi-pen with you when you go out with your child, and have them bring it even if they go out without you.. Make sure your child’s daycare or school is aware of her condition. Give a second Epi-pen to your child’s school and ask that staff know how to use it correctly in case of an emergency. Ensure the school does not allow your child to eat other children’s food.

Other medications may be needed to treat anaphylaxis, but none are more important initially than adrenaline. Other medications that may help include steroids and antihistamines. It is important to identify the trigger for anaphylaxis (the substance that set off the reaction), and avoid it. If your child has another anaphylactic reaction, give adrenaline (Epi-pen) immediately and call an ambulance.

Reviewed by Lisa Kelly 26 April 2017
references
  • current version

  • PEER REVIEWER

  • Doc id

  • next review

This document has been developed and peer reviewed by a KIDS HEALTH Advisory Board Representative and is based on expert opinion and the available published literature at the time of review. Information contained in this document is not intended to replace medical advice and any questions regarding a medical diagnosis or treatment should be directed to a medical practitioner.

make a comment

0 comments

more articles by Dr Evelyn Lewin

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latest articles

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MEET THE EXPERTS

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