Coming into contact with something that triggers an allergic reaction can lead to a life threatening situation within minutes. These life threatening allergic reactions are referred to as anaphylaxis, and the symptoms produced by your body’s reaction can send you into a state called anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at allergens, anaphylactic shock and the role emergency medical providers play in helping patients suffering from a severe allergic reaction.
Allergies And Anaphylactic Shock
A number of different substances can trigger an allergic reaction in a person, but the three most common allergens are from:
- Animal stings
There are countless types of allergies, and as a society we’re getting better at being aware of potential allergies and limiting potential exposures to allergens. That’s why many schools limit what types of foods can be brought in for snacks and why many airlines have moved on from handing out peanuts during flights.
That said, thousands of people still suffer allergic reactions every day. Cross contamination at a restaurant or a rogue bee at a picnic can trigger anaphylaxis in people with severe allergies. Anaphylaxis is the severe reaction your body experiences after being exposed to an allergen, which can include symptoms like a runny nose, clammy skin, rapid heartbeat and difficulty breathing. Anaphylaxis can also result in an extreme drop in blood pressure, and if it drops so low that your cells and organs can’t get enough oxygen, this is known as anaphylaxis shock.
What To Do During An Anaphylactic Reaction
If you or someone you know comes in contact with an allergen that triggers anaphylaxis, knowing how to respond can save their life. The first thing you should do is call 911, as they will be able to dispatch paramedics to your location in a hurry. Don’t wait to see if the reaction gets better before calling, because if it worsens and the person begins to struggle to breathe, those minutes could make all the difference.
After you’ve contacted 911 and they are en route to your destination, it’s time to see if an epinephrine autoinjector like an EpiPen or Auvi-Q is available. These auto injectors will deliver a dose of epinephrine, which is a drug that helps to relax muscles so that breathing is easier and tightens blood vessels to help stabilize a person’s blood pressure. Most people who are aware of their allergy will carry epinephrine and know how to administer it, but if they are unresponsive or have never had to give themselves the injection, it pays to know what to do.
The standard location to administer an epinephrine injection is in the person’s thigh. The drug goes to work right away, and most people begin to show improvement in symptoms shortly after the injection. Now it’s time to help the patient rest and remain calm until paramedics arrive. If they are having difficulty breathing, standing or sitting up is preferred. If breathing is stable but they are dizzy, lightheaded or nauseous, lying down on one’ side is optimal.
Finally, it’s worth noting that some people can experience a secondary reaction after anaphylaxis. This is known as a biphasic reaction, and it tends to occur within 12 hours of exposure to the allergen. Again, this speaks to the importance of having the individual examined by and cared for by emergency services.
At Gold Cross Ambulance, we’ve helped countless patients overcome anaphylaxis, and we can do the same for you or anyone in your party if they get stung by a bee or accidentally consume something they’re allergic to. We can always be reached by calling 911 if you need an ambulance in the Fox Valley area, but you can also get in contact with our team by calling (920) 727-3034.