Anaphylaxis: What You Need to Know

  • By: The DIG for Kids
  • Time to read: 3 min.
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Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction which needs to be treated immediately. If your child, or a child in your care, is known to suffer from anaphylaxis, here’s a guideline to what you need to know and how you should react if it occurs.

Some people who suffer from certain allergies also experience anaphylaxis, which is a severe form of allergic reaction which affects the whole body. Not everyone who suffers from allergies experiences it (and the exact reason why is still unclear), but it’s most likely in those who have known allergies.

In fact, some of the most common triggers are food allergies, particularly peanuts and tree nuts, but it’s also known to affect people who are allergic to cow’s milk, eggs, fish or shellfish. Apart from foods, other forms of allergy can also trigger anaphylaxis, including Allergies To Medications and antibiotics, bee and wasp stings and even allergies to materials such as rubber and latex can trigger it. Children Who Suffer From Asthma as well as an additional allergy are at a greater risk of also experiencing anaphylaxis.

What Symptoms Does Anaphylaxis Cause?

The range and severity of symptoms caused by anaphylaxis varies, from mild to very serious, and the symptoms develop within a few minutes. Initially it may cause swelling and itching, with an itchy rash, or hives, appearing over the skin. They may suffer from abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhoea, feel nauseous or develop a sudden fever. A person’s face can swell up, as well as their lips, tongue and throat. As this happens, and their airways narrow, breathing difficulties occur.

Children with anaphylaxis may start wheezing. In severe cases, a person suffering from anaphylaxis can collapse, faint or lose consciousness completely.

What to Do

Being with someone who experiences anaphylaxis can be scary to witness, but you do need to know how to react and what to do if it happens. If anaphylaxis occurs, it needs emergency treatment – an injection of adrenaline – so you’ll need to call 999 immediately, and may need to be prepared to give the injection yourself.

If a child has known allergies and has already experience anaphylaxis, then the chances are they will have an adrenaline auto-injector. Ideally, they should carry this with them at all times. The auto-injector (which is also called an EpiPen) is ready loaded with adrenaline and should be injected into the outer thigh. If they are conscious, they could give themselves the injection – they should have been taught how to do this – or otherwise you may need to do it for them.

Other emergency help you can provide include making sure the person affected is comfortable. If they are conscious, but having breathing difficulties, help them sit up. If they are unconscious on the floor, then check their airways and breathing and move them into the recovery position. Always inform the emergency response team that you think anaphylaxis is the cause, as this will help them speed up essential treatment.

It is really worrying to see someone, especially a child, experience anaphylaxis, but the more you know about it and the better prepared you are to offer help and assistance, the better chance they have of being well assisted should an attack occur.

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