I hope that no one finds themselves in the situation of experiencing a severe allergic reaction. But it pays to be prepared. Studies have shown that delayed use of epinephrine is the leading cause of negative outcomes during anaphylaxis. That’s why #MinutesMatter in the event of an emergency.
What can you do to prepare for an unexpected allergic reaction?
1. Have a current Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and review it. Emergency Action Plans are forms filled out by your doctor or allergist which outline actions to take in the event of an allergic reaction. They are arranged into If/Then actions based on symptoms making it easy to determine what you should do. And, EAPs should always note the presence of asthma in a patient, as asthma can complicate a reaction. To learn more, please read Allergy Shmallergy’s Emergency Action Plan or obtain a copy like the one created by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
2. Lay patient down. If the patient is vomiting, lay them on their side. Elevate the legs if possible. This position helps with blood flow.
3. Administer epinephrine. The sooner, the better. Should you need to administer epinephrine, do not wait. Early administration of epinephrine is associated with the most positive results, including less medication needed at the hospital.
4. In the case of severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) first administer epinephrine, then call 911. You will need to go directly to a hospital after experiencing anaphylaxis even if symptoms subside. This is because patients require additional monitoring and because secondary reactions can occur – even hours after contact with a suspected allergen.
Other keys to success:
Always carry two epinephrine auto-injectors with you wherever you go. Most allergic reactions occur between seconds to 60 minutes after coming into contact with an allergen. However, in rare cases, allergic reactions can be delayed. Epinephrine is the only medication that will stop an anaphylactic reaction.
Train your tween, teen and friends about the symptoms of anaphylaxis, how and when to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure they understand that there’s no major downside to using an epinephrine auto-injector. Remind them to inject first, then call 911.
Carry an antihistamine for minor allergic reactions. In the case of anaphylaxis or when two or more organ systems are involved (for example, vomiting AND hives – which is gastrointestinal and skin), patients will still need epinephrine to stop this type of severe allergic reaction. However, if someone is experiencing minor reactions involving only one organ system (for example: hives, itchy mouth) antihistamines will help make things more comfortable. **Continue to monitor patients after giving antihistamines to make sure a reaction hasn’t returned or isn’t progressing into anaphylaxis.**
Most importantly, follow this Emergency Room mantra: If you THINK you need to use epinephrine, you DO need to use it.
In a severe allergic reaction #MinutesMatter.