Anaphylaxis involves a severe, potentially life-threatening reaction to an allergen; it is a rare condition but it can be fatal so it is important to know what to do if you come across somebody that has gone into anaphylactic shock. The reaction occurs when the immune system mistakes a harmless substance for a harmful substance and starts to produce large amounts of histamine that is released into the bloodstream. Anaphylactic shock can be brought on by a number of different triggers; common allergens include food allergies, including nuts, soya, shellfish and eggs, medications including penicillin and anaesthetics. Less common triggers may also include stings, such as wasp or bee stings and latex.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock
Negative reactions can occur almost instantaneously once the individual has come into contact with a particular allergen. Signs to look out for include:
- Breathing difficulties
- Irregular heart rate
- Swelling around the eyes, lips, hands and feet
- Abdominal pains and cramps
If you think somebody has gone into anaphylactic shock call an ambulance immediately. If they are conscious, try to sit them up and comfort them; if they have an epi-pen (a shot of adrenaline) on them, help them to inject themselves or inject them yourself; most people respond quickly to adrenaline. If they are unconscious and have stopped breathing, prepare to carry out CPR.