Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. If you are having a reaction, use your epinephrine* kit (e.g., EpiPen®, Twinject®) as instructed by your doctor and call 9-1-1. Lie down with your legs elevated to combat the effects of low blood pressure that can occur with the reaction.
Once medical help arrives, health professionals will check your vital signs (pulse, breathing rate, temperature, and blood pressure) and see whether you need oxygen or more epinephrine. Epinephrine is given to counteract the effects of your body's reaction to the allergen. Oxygen is given (using a tube or mask) when you are having trouble getting enough oxygen through breathing.
More than one dose of epinephrine may be needed to deal with the reaction. You may also receive an inhaled medication such as salbutamol to open the airways, antihistamines or steroids to "tone down" your body's reaction to the allergen, and medications to increase your blood pressure to safe levels (anaphylaxis can cause dangerously low blood pressure).
After your reaction is treated, your doctor will ask you to remain at the hospital for a period of time. This is important, as the reaction may come back within 1 to 72 hours (biphasic anaphylaxis).
Anaphylaxis can be treated. But the best way of dealing with anaphylaxis is to prevent an anaphylactic reaction from happening in the first place. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
- Know your allergies. Talk to your doctor about things that may give you a reaction, how to recognize the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, and what to do if they occur.
- Have desensitization therapy (allergy shots) if you have an insect venom allergy.
- Follow all treatment for asthma carefully to reduce your risk of a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction.
- Be sure that all health professionals involved in your care are aware of your allergies and ensure that this information is kept on your file.
- Wear a MedicAlert® bracelet (or similar identification) identifying your allergies.
- Always have an epinephrine kit with you. Ideally, have 2 doses of epinephrine available. Be sure you know how to use your epinephrine injection and check regularly to make sure it is not expired.
- Take all reasonable steps to avoid the things you are allergic to.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
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