When you live with allergies, you may experience symptoms like sneezing, coughing and itchiness from time to time. Anaphylaxis is a much more serious allergic reaction which can be life threatening.
Understanding the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and knowing what to do in an emergency could save a child’s life. Read on to find out what to do if your child goes into anaphylactic shock.
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be potentially life threatening.
When a person with severe allergies is exposed to an allergen, such as insect stings, certain foods or medicines, they may develop a sudden and severe reaction.
During an anaphylactic reaction, a person’s immune system has an exaggerated response, producing chemicals to attack the allergen. Some people experiencing anaphylaxis may go into anaphylactic shock.
During anaphylactic shock, the person’s airways will get tighter, making it difficult to breathe and talk normally. Their blood pressure will also suddenly drop.
Anaphylactic shock is a medical emergency and can be very serious, even fatal, if it’s not treated swiftly.
What are the common causes of anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is caused by exposure to an allergen. Almost any substance can be an allergen, and sometimes it is difficult to identify the trigger.
Common triggers include things like:
- Certain foods – Common food triggers include tree nuts, cow’s milk, shellfish and eggs. Some people may experience a severe food allergy reaction if traces of the food item are in their food or if a meal was prepared with equipment that previously touched the food allergen.
- Insect bites – Insect stings and bites may cause a severe allergic reaction. Bee and wasp stings are common triggers.
- Certain medicines – Some people may have an exaggerated immune response to certain types of medicine such as penicillin, insulin and ibuprofen. These may be available over the counter or from a healthcare provider.
- Latex – Materials such as latex (a type of rubber) may also be an allergen that causes anaphylaxis.
It’s a good idea to speak to an allergy specialist about your child’s allergies for advice about how to best care for them and prepare for an emergency.
What are the signs someone has gone into anaphylactic shock?
The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Tight throat
- Trouble talking normally
- Fast heart rate
- Drop in blood pressure
- Clammy skin
- Swelling of the face
- Stomach pain
- Loss of consciousness
How do you treat a serious allergic reaction?
The first line of treatment for anaphylaxis is epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) which is normally injected into the patient’s outer mid thigh using an auto injector.
Epinephrine is a chemical which is naturally produced by the body in response to anaphylaxis.
Injecting a dose of epinephrine can help reverse the effects of anaphylaxis, relaxing the breathing muscles, opening up the airways and maintaining heart function.
An EpiPen auto injector is designed to be used by anyone, not just medical professionals.
Children with severe allergies should always carry an appropriate EpiPen with them in case of medical emergency. The child’s school should be equipped with an EpiPen in their school first aid kit as well.
What do I do if your child goes into anaphylactic shock
Step 1: Lay the child down.
Do not let them stand up or walk around.
Step 2: Administer an EpiPen auto injector.
Follow the instructions on the EpiPen to administer a single dose of epinephrine in the child’s outer mid thigh.
For young children who weigh between 7.5kg to 20kg, you will need to use EpiPen Jnr which contains a smaller dose of epinephrine. For children under 7.5kg, it is not safe to use the EpiPen. Call for emergency medical help immediately.
Step 3: Call 000.
Anaphylactic shock is a potentially life threatening condition that requires medical attention. Symptoms can quickly get worse, so it’s important to call medical help immediately.
How to use an EpiPen for children
EpiPens are user friendly and can be administered by anyone, not just a trained healthcare provider. Visual and written instructions are clearly printed on the EpiPen.
- For children over 20kg, the regular EpiPen can be used.
- For children between 7.5kg and 20kg, the EpiPen Jnr should be used.
- For children under 7.5kg, it is not safe to use the EpiPen. Speak to your child’s doctor for options for children under 7.5kg.
Follow the steps below to administer an EpiPen to a child:
Step 1: Grab the EpiPen in your fist.
The blue end should be pointing upwards, and the orange end should be pointing downwards. Grab the EpiPen in the centre so that your hand is not too close to either end.
Step 2: Remove the safety cap.
Lift the blue safety release straight upwards to remove it.
Step 3: Place the orange end against the child’s outer thigh.
The orange end contains the needle. Hold the child’s leg still. It doesn’t matter if the leg is clothed or bare.
Step 4: Push down until you hear a click.
Push down firmly until you hear a click.
Step 5: Hold in place for 3 seconds.
After 3 seconds, remove the EpiPen and gently massage the injection area. Call for medical help immediately.
Be prepared for severe allergy emergencies
Whether you are a parent, healthcare provider or work at a school, the best way to protect the children in your care is to be prepared with an emergency plan.
It’s important to know what to do if your child goes into anaphylactic shock as symptoms can get progressively worse and become potentially life threatening.
All school first aid kits should contain EpiPen and EpiPen Jnr if there are people with severe allergies at a school.
Buy EpiPens and other first aid emergency equipment online today with LFA First Response. If you need advice on getting the right supplies for your needs, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly customer service team.