How to help someone who is suffering from Anaphylaxis is one of the most commonly asked questions in our first aid courses. We wanted to prepare a quick summary to help people remember how to treat someone who is suffering from anaphylaxis.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a potentially severe or life-threatening allergic reaction that can occur very quickly, as fast as within a couple of minutes of exposure to the allergen. Here is a quick list of common allergens:
Food – peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy, and more
Insect Stings – bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps
Medication – penicillin (most common)
Material – latex (balloons are often made of latex)
Signs and Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
These can vary from person to person but the most common signs and symptoms are:
Skin – hives, swelling, itching, redness, rash, can appear to have pale or blue looking skin due to lack of oxygen (later sign)
Breathing – coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness in chest, throat swelling and trouble breathing, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing,
Stomach – nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
Heart – weak pulse, dizziness or fainting, shock
Other – anxiety, confusion, headache, losing control of urine or bowel movements
A person suffering from anaphylaxis may have trouble breathing or experience a drop in blood pressure. These symptoms can lead to death if not treated immediately!
Epinephrine is the drug used to treat anaphylaxis. It has saved countless lives over the year and continues to be the best option for combating the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Epinephrine in the auto-injectors should be seen as the first line of defence during a reaction. Waiting too long to give this medication can be the difference of life and death, so it is vital to help the patient take their medication right away. Even after taking the medication, the person still needs to go to the hospital. People with severe anaphylaxis will often have their symptoms return after the medication has worn off. Currently the EpiPen is the only epinephrine auto-injector approved by Health Canada for distribution in Canada.
5 Emergency Steps
1. Give epinephrine (EpiPen®) at the first signs of a severe allergic reaction
2. Call 9-1-1 right away!
3. If the symptoms do not improve, you can provide a second dose as early as 5 minutes after delivering the first dose.
4. Get to the hospital right away! Even if symptoms are mild or have stopped. The reaction could get worse or come back after using epinephrine. You should stay in the hospital to be observed
5. Call the emergency contact person (parent, guardian, spouse).
How to Use the EpiPen
How to Use the AUVI-Q