Spotting Anaphylaxis and Allergic Reactions

Minor allergic reactions are common and rarely serious. However, Anaphylaxis is a whole body reaction which may cause the sudden collapse of the circulatory system leading to shock and death within minutes. Many of us will know someone who has a severe allergy.

Anaphylaxis can develop within seconds of exposure to the allergen. Common substances include

  • Drugs – for example, certain antibiotics
  • Insect stings – wasps and bees
  • Food – nuts and shellfish are common examples

During Anaphylaxis, fluid leaks from the circulation into the tissues resulting in swelling. If this happens in the throat, the airway is at risk from becoming blocked. The patient may also develop a wheeze (similar to asthma) and a red blotchy rash.

Fortunately, Anaphylaxis is a rare event. Effective treatment can be given by administering Epinephrine (Adrenaline) promptly. People with a known history of Anaphylaxis should carry an Epinephrine auto-injector device such as an Epi-Pen.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis

  • Swelling of the face or neck
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath and wheeze
  • Collapse / loss of consciousness
  • Red blotchy rash

Using an Epinephrine Auto-injector

Even if the patient shows signs of recovery following administration of Epinephrine they still need to seek urgent medical attention. Anaphylaxis can re-occur after an initial improvement in symptoms.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid & CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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