Anaphylaxis refers to a rapidly developing and serious allergic reaction that affects a number of different areas of the body at one time. Severe anaphylactic reactions can be fatal. Most people experience allergy symptoms only as a minor annoyance. However, a small number of allergic people are susceptible to a reaction that can lead to shock or even death. Fortunately, anaphylaxis is rare. The death rate from anaphylaxis is about 1 out of every 2.5 million people per year.
Preventing anaphylaxis is the ideal form of treatment. However, that may not always be easy since insect stings are frequently unanticipated and allergic foods are often hidden in a variety of different preparations. Here are some prevention tips.
Drugs and Medications
- Advise all health care personnel of your allergies.
- Ask your doctor whether the prescribed medication contains the drug(s) you are allergic to.
- Take all drugs by mouth if possible.
- Avoid areas such as outdoors garbage, barbecues and insect nests.
- Avoid bright clothing, perfume, hair spray or lotion that might attract insects.
- Wear long sleeved clothing, long trousers, and shoes while outdoors.
- Carefully read all labels.
- Ask what the ingredients are when eating out.
- Avoid foods that may cross react such as bananas, kiwi fruit, and avocado.
- Avoid all latex products.
- Ask if your hospital has Latex safety issues if you need to be hospitalized.
Since avoidance is not fail safe, a person at risk for an anaphylactic reaction must be adequately prepared in an emergency to handle a reaction. It is recommended that everyone at risk carry epinephrine injection kits designed for self-administration. These kits are available by prescription only and come in two forms:
- Epi-pen is a spring-loaded automatic syringe that delivers a predetermined dose (0.3mg) when the tip is pressed hard for several seconds. An Epi-pen junior is available for children under 33 pounds and contains half of the dose.
- Ana-kit contains a preloaded syringe and needles with 2 0.3mg doses of epinephrine. These are injected under the skin or into the muscle of the thigh. An antihistamine, alcohol swab, and a tourniquet are included in the kit.
Here are some important points to remember regarding the kits:
- Ask you doctor to explain the use of the kit carefully and practice with the demonstrator kit.
- Check expiration dates and replace outdated kits.
- Keep kits out of direct sunlight, which may effect the drug.
- Additional kits should be brought to school or work.
- Always have kits with you or readily available.
- Make sure that your friends, relatives, exercise buddies, and co-workers are aware of your condition and know what to do in case of a reaction.
For additional information, please visit the Anaphylaxis Center, and the First Aid Center.
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Last Editorial Review: 12/23/2002