First Aid for Anaphylaxis

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Anaphylaxis First Aid: Recognize Anaphylaxis

© A.D.A.M.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergy that can affect as much as 15% of the population. If the victim is unconscious, call 911 immediately. Look for several telltale signs that indicate an allergic reaction:

It is not necessary to have all of the signs for it to be an allergy. If you suspect an allergic reaction and the victim has trouble breathing or dizziness, it is probably anaphylaxis:

Call 911 immediately.

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Anaphylaxis First Aid: Remove the Allergen

Remove allergens as quickly as possible by any means available. © A.D.A.M.

Allergic reactions continue as long as the allergen is in contact with the body. To remove allergens:

  • Bee stingers: Remove the stinger as quickly as possible. How you remove it doesn't matter as much as how fast you remove it. The longer the bee's stinger is in the skin, the stronger the reaction will be.
  • Topical allergens (like poison oak): Wash the toxin away with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Food or drugs: allergens that are ingested or injected are in the body and there's not really much you can do to minimize the exposure.

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Anaphylaxis First Aid: Epinephrine

Automatic injector syringes are used to administer epinephrine to victims of anaphylaxis. © 2005 GSM

Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) is the drug that stops anaphylactic reactions in their tracks. Epinephrine is administered with an automatic syringe that injects the drug by pushing the syringe against the body.

Epinephrine auto-injectors are only available through a physician with a prescription. It is essential if you have a prescription for epinephrine that you carry it with you at all times. Without epinephrine, an anaphylactic reaction could quickly become fatal. With epinephrine, anaphylaxis may be reversed within minutes.

To use epinephrine on a victim who has it but is incapacitated, follow these steps (or read the tutorial What You Need to Know About EpiPen Use):

  1. Pull the grey cap off the back of the device
     
  2. Firmly press the black end into the victim's thigh and hold for at least ten seconds. It is preferable to use the auto-injector right on the skin, but if you have to go through clothing, that's OK.
     
  3. After the device has been used, there will be an exposed needle sticking out of the black end. Be careful to dispose of the exposed needle properly. The ambulance or other rescuers should be able to dispose of the device for you.

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