Anaphylactic Shock or Anaphylaxis as it sometimes known as is an extremely dangerous allergic reaction which can be triggered by prescription drugs such as Penicillin, reactions can occur with certain foods to and the more common ones are peanuts, seafood, insect bites, hair dye chemicals (that’s why hairdressers do a ‘patch test’ with customers), in fact there are lots of things that can trigger an allergic reaction.
The immune system kicks in when the body detects a foreign protein and ‘histamine’is released, but if histamine is released into the body in huge quantities it quickly makes the skin itchy and red, this very quickly develops into a rash and with going on the strength of the hearts contractions start to weaken, which starts to constrict the lungs which make breathing harder for the sufferer, and if this is not for the suffer to contend with, the blood capillaries start leaking which causes swelling and then we get anaphylactic shock.
For anyone who has witnessed Anaphylactic shock, it is a very scary experience both for you and the person who is having the reaction that escalates rapidly and can be life-threatening if not dealt with swiftly.
How can we spot if someone is having an allergic reaction?
- Sudden swelling of the face, lips, tongue, neck, and eyes are very good indicators.
- Noisy breathing as the swelling starts to constrict the throat, quite often loud pitched breathing is noticeable, obviously with this there is the added danger of not being able to breathe.
- Pulse starts to speed up and the pulse is noticeably weaker than normal.
- Skin becomes itchy and red, hives appear, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, loss of bladder control can happen too.
- An anxiety attack is quite common during anaphylactic shock, they think they are going to die, especially when the symptoms escalate rapidly.
So how can we help them?
- Call 999 immediately for urgent medical help is a top priority, this person needs expert assistance from a medical professional and fast.
- Ensure they use their epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injector quickly as possible if they are having problems finding it, then help them and hand it to them, you can provide further assistance if necessary by using the auto-injector in a fleshy muscular area (a thigh area is a good place)
- Get them to lay down on the floor, quite often they may feel faint so by raising the legs slightly the blood will flow back towards the head.
- If breathing problems are noticed it can be helpful to sit them up against a wall in a “lazy W” position with the knees raised, this will aid blood flow too.
- Epinephrine can be used at 5-minute intervals if no improvement is noticed.
Many sufferers carry epinephrine (adrenaline) auto-injectors (epi-pen) everywhere they go, so if they have an allergic reaction they can rapidly inject themselves with epinephrine using the auto-injector rapidly, even though they have given themselves a dose of epinephrine doesn’t mean they will recover either, a hospital visit is usually on the cards too.