Some individuals have an immune system reaction to something their body perceives an as allergen. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis treatment should begin as soon as symptoms start. People who have a history of anaphylaxis may be prescribed an EpiPen® for use at home in case a reaction develops. An EpiPen® contains a dose of epinephrine, which may reduce severe allergy symptoms and stop an attack from becoming worse.
In addition to a reaction to an allergen, as occurs with true anaphylaxis, some medications such as aspirin can cause a pseudo-anaphylaxis. This form of anaphylaxis is different because it is not caused by a response from the immune system. Symptoms are similar, and anaphylaxis treatment is the same for both types.
Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction vary, but often include puffiness in the face, itching, hives, and dizziness. The type of anaphylaxis treatment needed will depend on the severity of the anaphylactic reaction. Some people may develop anaphylactic shock and symptoms may include increased heart rate, pale skin, and confusion.
In instances where an EpiPen® does not reverse symptoms or anaphylactic shock has already developed, additional anaphylaxis treatment will be needed. Oxygen may be given to help with shortness of breath and trouble breathing, which may occur. If blood pressure becomes too low, intravenous fluids may be given.
Along with epinephrine, other medications may be needed. People who have respiratory symptoms, such as tightness in the chest, may need a bronchodilator such as albuterol. When symptoms, such as hives or itching develop, medication containing diphenhydramine may help. Steroids may also be prescribed to decreases swelling in the airway.
One of the most dangerous symptoms that can develop is swelling in the throat. It can become life threatening if the swelling closes the airway and breathing is affected. In order to protect the airway and allow support from a respirator, insertion of a breathing tube into the airway may be needed. If placement of a breathing tube is delayed too long, the throat may be too swollen to insert the tube.
Part of anaphylaxis treatment is teaching patients how to manage their allergy long-term. Once a person has an anaphylactic reaction, he is at risk of developing another. Learning what triggers this type of immune system response and avoiding it are essential. Carrying an EpiPen® and knowing how to use it are also critical. Family members should also be informed of the possibility of anaphylaxis and also know how to use the EpiPen®.