Symptoms of Anaphylaxis can appear and advance very quickly and early symptoms can range from a mild disorientation and runny nose or a skin rash and then advance to more serious, life-threatening symptoms like trouble breathing, vomiting or acute abdominal pain. Once a person develops an anaphylaxic reaction, she may need an immediate injection of epinephrine to treat the symptoms of the reaction and reduce life-threatening symptoms. Teens and young adults with common food allergies or other allergies that trigger anaphylaxis are at the greatest risk for a potentially fatal reaction.
Every year, food allergies send about 200,000 people to emergency rooms and about 100,000 of those reactions are anaphylaxis. In schools, when a child is treated with epinephrine for anaphylaxis, about 25% of the time, the child was previously undiagnosed with the condition.
Who is at Risk for Anaphylaxis?
If you have had even a mild allergic reaction in the past, you may want to see an allergist to determine what is triggering your allergic response. People with compromised breathing conditions like asthma may more at-risk for severe or even fatal reactions. A reaction may include a range of affected areas and organs – affecting circulation and breathing. People with severe reactions to insect stings and venom may also have the same kinds of responses.
Using an Epinephrine Injection to Treat Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can occur very quickly after exposure. It is not uncommon for a person to show signs of a severe reaction within just a few minutes. Even when epinephrine injection is applied early, a person will still need further treatment to make sure that there no continued effects of the reaction. Giving your child a shot or injecting your spouse, or yourself, with an epinephrine shot can be pretty scary, but most people with known allergies who are prepared with the treatment have also been trained to do so and understand the needs to regularly check their medications to ensure that they can be used in an emergency. Many manufacturers of epinephrine treatments include instruction videos (see auto-injector demonstration).
How quickly does someone need an injection of epinephrine?
This is a sensitive area, but when a severe allergy is known and a person has received an exposure to an allergen that will probably trigger an anaphylaxic reaction, epinephrine should probably be administered immediately. The process of developing severe symptoms starts immediate upon exposure, even though the person may not display them for several minutes. In one case, (Onespot Allergy Information) a young girl was given an injection of epinephrine 20 minutes after an exposure to peanuts. Because she was not displaying a severe reaction, administering an epinephrine treatment was delayed, and she died because the reaction was building from the moment of first exposure, and by the time that the final treatment was given, it was too late. In another study, Fatal and near-fatal anaphylactic reactions to food in children and adolescents, treatment within the first 30 minutes of exposure correlates to a significant increase in survival rates compared to treatments with epinephrine, more than 30 minutes later or no treatment at all.
Types of Severe Anaphylaxic Reactions
- Lungs and Breathing: Severe symptoms occur in acute and unexpected manners – Shortness of breath, continued-repetitive coughing, wheezing.
- Heart and Circulation-Related: Light blue discoloration, colorlessness, and a weak pulse.
- Skin: Widespread hives and redness.
- Swelling of the eyes, lips or hands.
People who experience anaphylaxic reactions comment that they feel anxious within moments of exposure – as if something is dreadfully wrong and they experience increased heart rates. If you have minor allergic symptoms, you should consult with an allergist to better understand your condition and prepare for more severe reactions.