Although rare, anaphylaxis has claimed lives of a lot of people. It is a severe allergic reaction that affects more than one part of the person’s body. The trigger might be one of the following: insect stings, food, latex and medication. The best way to avoid it is to stay away from whatever triggers the allergy. There are situations, however, were a reaction cannot be prevented.
The person might not be aware that he or she is allergic to any of those mentioned above. Allergies to medication cannot be determined beforehand. Unfortunately, allergies can only be detected when a reaction already happens.
It is an Emergency
Anaphylaxis is an emergency situation. You should not wait for the symptoms to go away before you call emergency. If the person has already had an episode previously, there is a greater chance of experiencing anaphylaxis in the future so always be prepared.
One way to prevent a fatal reaction is to let people know about your allergies. Ask about the food or read labels if you have a food allergy. Visit an allergist to be certain.
To know more about the treatment and prevention of anaphylaxis, the Allergy and Clinical Immunology Society in Singapore has a set of guidelines for almost every type of allergy.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
If you or a person you know have any of the following symptoms, it might be anaphylaxis: hives, swollen face or parts of the face, difficulty breathing, vomiting and nausea, diarrhea, change in blood pressure and heart beat, abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing.
Sometimes a combination of any of these symptoms are not severe and may not be anaphylaxis, but always assume it’s an emergency especially if the reaction is very unusual. Note that people with asthma are also at a higher risk of having anaphylaxis.
If your children have allergies, be mindful of their reactions to food and drugs. One study found that more than half of anaphylaxis cases in children in Singapore were triggered by food. Peanut was found to be the most common culprit, followed by seafood and bird’s nest.
Among teenagers, shellfish like shrimp and crab are the most common triggers. In adults, the most common triggers are molluscs and crustaceans. Dust mites are also a common trigger because they are common in humid climates.
Treatment of Anaphylaxis
At the onset of an anaphylactic attack, the first line of defense is an injection of epinephrine. Some patients are advised to carry injectable epinephrine (or epinephrine autoinjector). It must be administered to the person in not less than 30 minutes after exposure to the allergic substance. Don’t wait for the symptoms to get better. If there is no EpiPen, take the person to the nearest hospital.
Epinephrine or adrenaline is the only known and proven medication that can stop anaphylaxis. Care should be taken however when the person is an elderly, but it should still be injected.
Call emergency even if the symptoms are getting better after a shot of epinephrine. The doctor might administer other medications to the person such as antihistamines, steroids and asthma medication.