The scariest type of allergy is clearly anaphylaxis. With an attack, the patient generally gets itchy all over and can face problems like their throat closing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, vomiting, diarrhea, or passing out. An exceptionally severe attack can be fatal.
Food allergy is the most common reason for anaphylaxis. It can also happen with drug allergy or stings from bees, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, or fire ants. More rare causes include exercise, cold temperature, and there is even a disease called idiopathic anaphylaxis, which is when anaphylaxis occurs with no recognized trigger.
The most effective means to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid the trigger. Finding out what the allergy is or the mechanism of activation can help you avoid the correct trigger and have more success in the long run. Your Board Certified Allergist can help you make these determinations.
Once anaphylaxis has started, the one treatment shown over and over to be the most effective is epinephrine. The earlier it is given the better the chances are for a good outcome such as decreased mortality, less hospitalizations, and less late phase reactions.
There are currently five epinephrine devices that a person can have on hand in case of a reaction. The cost of this lifesaving drug has become a major issue but it’s effectiveness in treating anaphylaxis makes the cost worth it for many who suffer from severe anaphylaxis. It is very important to work with your allergist so you know how and when to use it.
Other Treatment Options
What else can be done in case of anaphylaxis? If avoidance doesn’t work and you don’t have epinephrine on hand, getting to an emergency room right away is vital. Additionally, even if you have taken epinephrine you still need to see your healthcare professional right away or even consider a trip to the emergency room because the epinephrine helps for only 10 to 15 minutes.
In the meantime, laying the patient down can help keep the blood going to the brain and critical organs when the blood pressure drops. If patients are short of breath, oxygen administration helps.
After a Reaction
An often-overlooked part of treatment is the post-anaphylaxis recheck with your allergist to review what happened. Make sure you see your Board Certified Allergist after a reaction to review what happened and what can be done differently next time. Some things you might review include:
- Why did the reaction happen?
- Are there ways we can prevent it better in the future?
- Was the epinephrine given when it should have been?
- Were there transport issues getting the patient the help they needed?
- Has the epinephrine injector(s) been refilled?
- How is everyone dealing with the stress of what happened?
- Are there new questions?
- Is it time to do the allergy shots to make you less allergic to the stings?
With a clear diagnosis of the type of anaphylaxis you have, your Board Certified Allergist can help you implement an effective, long-term treatment plan so you can live your life to the fullest!