Anaphylaxis is one of the deadliest allergic reactions which if not attended to in time can be fatal for the victim. Unlike many other types of allergic reactions anaphylaxis is not limited to just one system or body part i.e. the skin or the hair or even the hands. The reaction can easily spread throughout the body which includes the respiratory system, skin and circulatory system. This can practically cause a person to collapse depending on its intensity. The problem with the condition is that it’s hard to distinguish it from other types of allergic reactions, mainly because in some cases it can affect the respiratory system causing a life threatening condition similar to asthma.
Start by removing the allergen
The one thing that is taught in almost every anaphylaxis training class is the fact that the allergic reaction increases in intensity as long as the allergen is in the body or in contact with it. So, the first thing that needs to be done is to remove the allergen. There are various types of allergens and so you’ll need to identify and then remove them.
Topical allergens: These can be plants like poison oak, a toxic chemical or something that spilt on the victim’s hand or body. The easiest thing is to wash away the toxin using water and soap multiple times after identifying the spill area.
Bee stings: When a bee stings 9 times of 10 it will leave its stinger stuck in the skin. As long as the stinger is around the worse a reaction will become. So, the stinger should be located and removed immediately. The sooner you do this the easier it becomes for the victim to recover.
Anaphylaxis caused by drugs and food: Injected or ingested chemicals are perhaps the worst because these cannot be removed. This is why the anaphylaxis reaction is at times fatal for the victim. In some extreme cases doctors will administer a drug so that the victim throws up everything he or she has eaten.
An Epinephrine shot
Apart from the anaphylaxis first aid tips given above no amount of anaphylaxis training can keep a victim alive for an extended period of time without an Epinephrine shot. This is the only drug that can stop the reaction within a few minutes after it has been administered. The best way to administer it for regular people is to inject it using an automatic syringe. All that needs to be done is to push the syringe into the body.
In most countries around the world epinephrine injectors are usually available via a physician’s prescription. You will need to have a prescription in order to carry around the drug everywhere you go and this can only be possible if you suffer from frequent anaphylaxis allergic reactions. A bystander who witnesses a person having an anaphylaxis reaction should first ask them if they have an epinephrine auto injector with them, if this is the case then the following steps that need to be taken to administer it:
- Start by pulling the cap off the back of the syringe or elongated device.
- Press the end into the victim’s arm or ideally their thigh and then hold it there for up to 15 seconds. The auto injector needs to be used on the skin and not necessarily via clothing but it can be used through the clothes if there is no other way.
- Once the device is used and the needle can be seen sticking out it has to be disposed of carefully. If there is an ambulance headed your way you can give the syringe to them and they should be able to dispose of it correctly.
Note: If the victim has gone into shock before you were able to apply the injector make sure to first inject the victim after which you deliver 30 chest compressions. This should help the circulation to move the drug through the system easier and help the victim come back to consciousness quickly. Continue to deliver cycles of chest compressions i.e. 30 a minute until you see improvement in the victim’s health. I most cases this should be enough to revive a person if they are not dead.
Manu Alias is a leading expert on anaphylaxis in Australia. He offers regular anaphylaxis training to people who are dealing with the condition as well as those who have family members with the condition. In addition he also helps train paramedics on first aid related issues.