Last week, on a private first aid course I ran for soon to be parents, I was asked about anaphylaxis as a new daddy had a severe nut allergy and his wife was worried she wouldn’t know what to do in a situation. With high profile stories in the news at the moment such as a high street food retailer not showing allergies correctly on their labelling it is at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds so it is really important to understand what to do if someone around you is suffering from anaphylaxis.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe and life threatening reaction to something which can often develop very rapidly. It is also sometimes called anaphylaxic shock. You can have an allergic reaction without having anaphylaxis if you are having allergic symptoms but not reacting in a severe way.
What causes it?
You can be allergic to many things. You can be allergic to foods such as nuts, eggs, shellfish. You can be allergic to medicines such as penicillan or antibotics, allergic to venom or stings (snakes or wasps etc.) or to latex. However, as many as one in four people don’t know what they are actually allergic to and what is causing their symptoms.
Whats does someone suffering from anaphylaxis look like?
Usually someone who is suffering from anaphylaxis will show their symptoms immediately (within minutes) of whatever they have reacted to. They can have any or all of the below symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Swelling of their tongue or mouth
- Wheezy breathing and/or stridor (loud high pitched breathing sound)
- A tight chest
- A change in heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- An abnormal heart rhythm
- Itchy skin or eyes
- Hives or welts on their body
- General swelling across their body
- Feelings of anxiousness
- The picture above shows a number of signs and symptoms found across the body of someone suffering from anaphylaxis
What do you do if you see someone suffering from anaphylaxis?
- Call 999 immediately and tell them you are with someone suffering from anaphylaxis
- If they are struggling to breath help them to sit upright to get more air into their lungs
- If they have low blood pressure / feeling faint help them to lie on the floor with their legs raised If they have an autoinjector (such as an Epipen or Jext) help them to administer it or administer it for them:
- Remove the sheath and take the lid off the top of the autoinjector
- Hold the device with you hand wrapped around it (not finger over the top in case you are holding it upside down!) and follow the instructions on the injector – usually jab autoinjector firmly into outer thigh and hold for 10 seconds.
- You can jab the autoinjector through clothes and it will work
- If they are breathing and unresponsive put them in the recovery position
- If they stop breathing start CPR
Important things to know
- An autoinjector does not ‘solve’ the problem it buys the person suffering anaphylaxis time. Therefore it is really important you stay with them and call 999 and make sure they get medical attention.
- Most people who know they suffer from anaphylaxis carry two or more autoinjectors with them. After you use the first one you may need to use the second one as well if the symptoms return. (usually between 5 – 15 minutes later).
Want to know more?
I run a one day anaphylaxis course which covers anaphylaxis in greater detail as well as teaching you how to perform effective CPR and other important information around saving someone suffering from anaphylxis.
If this is of interest please get in touch by messaging through the website or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.