The percentage of children with food allergies has increased over the years, which has ultimately led to increasing numbers of anaphylactic reactions. Parents who have ever witnessed their child suffer an anaphylactic reaction know how unsettling this can feel. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction that can occur after being exposed to certain including foods, insect stings, medications, or latex. Anaphylactic reactions often involve swelling, hives, reduced blood pressure, and in some severe cases, shock. Warning signs include rash, flushing, swelling, wheezing, lightheadedness, chest or throat tightening, trouble breathing, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Epinephrine is the only medication proven to save lives during anaphylactic reactions. A 2014 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice found that early administration of epinephrine during an anaphylactic reaction (ie, administering epinephrine before arriving to the emergency department, versus upon arrival to the hospital) led to fewer hospital admissions, and fewer treatments with antihistamines, steroids, and inhaled medications.
Owning an epinephrine auto-injector increases the odds of being able to give epinephrine early in an allergic reaction. If you or your family member has a severe allergy, talk to your allergist about proper use of an epi pen and what warning signs of anaphylaxis you should look for.
Signs of Anaphylaxis:
Skin: Flushing; itching; hives; swelling; rash; itching of lips, tongue and palate; swelling of lips, tongue and back of throat (uvula); itching around eyes; redness and swelling of eyes; and tearing of eyes.
Respiratory: Itching and tightness of the throat; difficulty swallowing; change in voice; hoarseness; dry cough; harsh high-pitched breathing (stridor); itching in the outer ear canals; shortness of breath; chest tightness; cough and wheezing; itching of the nose; runny nose; congestion; and sneezing.
Gastrointestinal: Nausea; cramping abdominal pain; vomiting; and diarrhea.
Cardiovascular: Decreased blood pressure; feeling faint; fainting; not acting normally; chest pain; and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Other: Uterine cramping in women; and an aura of impending doom.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Anaphylaxis. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-a-to-z-search/Anaphylaxis.aspx. Published 2014.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Anaphylaxis Overview. http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/anaphylaxis.aspx. Published 2014.
Kids With Food Allergies Staff. Allergic Reaction or Anaphylaxis: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=149&. Published August 2013.