Knowing how to respond in an allergic emergency can help to save lives

Allergic reaction stock image. Credit: Astier/BSIP/Corbis

Anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction, is unpredictable and can happen anywhere, anytime, so it’s important to know how to respond to an allergic emergency while waiting for medically trained professionals to arrive.

Emergency medicine specialist, Dr Charl van Loggerenberg said, “If you suspect someone is suffering from anaphylaxis, you need to immediately call your local medical emergency number. You then need to assess if the person is carrying an adrenaline auto-injector and administer it immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to progress. Prompt treatment could save a life.”

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis may vary from one person to another but may include skin reactions such as hives, itching, and flushed or pale skin; swelling of the face, eyes, lips or throat; constriction of the airways leading to wheezing and breathing difficulty; nausea and vomiting, dizziness, fainting or unconsciousness.

Anyone who lives with, cares for or hosts someone with a potentially life-threatening (severe) allergy, including family members, friends and school personnel, are encouraged to develop an anaphylaxis action plan which includes the following four steps:

  • Avoiding known allergens
  • Knowing what signs and symptoms to look for
  • Using an auto-injector should anaphylaxis occur
  • Seeking immediate emergency medical assistance.

A well-stocked first-aid kit can also help in emergency situations.

At least one first-aid kit should be kept in your home. In addition to basic supplies such as bandages, sterile dressings, creams and antiseptic solutions, certain medications can be included such as an adrenaline auto-injector which is available on prescription from your doctor.

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