Anaphylaxis and Life Saving Measures

This post is going to be a little more dry than what you are used to reading from me. But since it’s World Allergy Week, and allergy care is my field of expertise, I thought I would get a little serious and share the four stages of anaphylaxis and what to do in case of an emergency. What is anaphylaxis anyways? It is a serious allergic reaction that affects a number of different areas of the body at one time, and if left untreated, can be fatal. It is important to know how to treat anaphylaxis, especially if you, your child, or other loved ones have severe allergies to something (think peanut butter, shellfish, cat, or dog). To get familiar with the four stages could be a difference of life and death.

Stage One: Normal Reactions

  • Signs and Symptoms- Redness, wheals (looks like a mosquito bite), and itching (in my case, at the test site). For someone not getting tested, these same things can happen with just normal exposure to a specific allergen.
  • Intervention- Clean affected area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water, then apply Benadryl cream or spray to suppress the reaction.

Stage Two: Movement of Local Reaction to Secondary Locations & Possible Labored Breathing

  • Signs and Symptoms- In testing, this is going to include multiple wheals that connect, making it impossible to read. For someone exposed to the allergen, this can include itching, redness and whelping on other parts of the body that was not exposed to the allergen. Or hives that are starting to connect at the exposed site and other sites.
  • First Response Emergency Intervention- 1.) Apply tourniquet (or other apparatus such as a belt) to cut circulation off from the affected area to keep it from spreading to other parts of the body. 2.) Clean affected site. 3.) Apply Benedryl cream or spray to site. 4.) Give oral Benedryl (liquid is best, because it is easier to swallow and it gets in the system faster). 5.) Monitor for stage three anaphylaxis. You also might want to call your physician’s office (if applicable) to let them know what is happening, you do not need to call 911 at this time.

Stage Three: Severe Allergic Reaction, Respiratory Distress

  • Signs and Symptoms- Rapid onset, red flushing of face, chest, and throat. Visible panic, rapid labored breathing with audible stridor (wheezing), throat swelling. Pale, sweaty, universal choking sign, altered, mental status due to lack of oxygen to the brain.
  • First Response Emergency Intervention- 1.) Appoint someone to call 911. 2.) Administer Epi-Pen. 3.) Apply tourniquet (or other apparatus such as a belt) to cut circulation off from the affected part of the body to keep it from spreading to other parts of the body. 4.) Give oral Bendryl.
  • Shock Treatment/Trendelenburg Position- Lay the person in the supine position (on their back) on a hard, flat surface with their feet raised above the heart to increase the flow pressure of oxygen filled blood through the heart and brain, thus ultimately raising blood pressure to a safe level.

Stage Four: Death is Imminent Without Medical Attention

  • Signs and Symptoms: Unconscious, not breathing, hypotensive (low BP), weak or absent pulse, pulmonary edema (fluid build up in the lungs), circulatory distress, full shock.
  • Call 911 and administer the Epi-Pen.
  • Vasovagal Reponse- Occurs when the part of the nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions in response to a trigger. Symptoms include lightheadedness, nausea, feeling of being extremely hot, ringing in the ears, uncomfortable feeling of the heart, fuzzy thoughts, a slight inability to speak/form words, weakness, visual disturbances, fuzzy or tunnel vision, and a feeling of nervousness.

I hope this has been informational, and it was of some use to my readers. The main thing to remember in all of this is to remain calm and focused. Know when to call 911 and when to use the Epi-Pen. It is always a good idea to keep the Epi-Pen and some Benedry (tablets at the very least) on your person at all times, because you never know when you might come in contact with an allergen


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