When Allergies Can Become Deadly
Anaphylaxis is rare. But it can be just as serious as a heart attack. This severe allergic response affects the whole body. It can come on within seconds or minutes. Still, two of five people wait to seek medical help for it as shown by a survey of 58 people who landed in the E.R.
Why did these people delay? Because they thought the symptoms would go away. But this waiting game can be deadly. About 50 Americans die from insect stings and 100 from food-related allergies each year.
Half of those in the study used allergy medications to treat their symptoms. But less than a third used the only effective treatment that works quickly for anaphylaxis: epinephrine. And, this was true even though they had had a severe allergic reaction in the past and had a prescription for epinephrine. This manmade form of adrenaline works by relaxing airways and constricting blood vessels. It is available as a shot you can easily give yourself. EpiPen and Twinject are two examples.
Have you ever had a severe allergic reaction to a substance? These are signs and symptoms that you may need to have a supply of epinephrine:
After taking epinephrine, have someone take you directly to the hospital emergency room. You may need other treatment.
What triggers these types of reactions? The most common triggers are insect stings, latex, foods, and medicines – often antibiotics. Common food triggers are:
Are you severely allergic to certain foods or medications? Once you know what you're sensitive to, be sure to read both food and medication labels carefully. Also discuss ingredients with chefs at restaurants. Sometimes it takes only a very small amount to cause a severe reaction. If you're allergic to insect stings, you can reduce your chances of getting stung. Don't wear perfume, cologne, or brightly colored clothing.
If you've ever had a severe allergic reaction, be sure to discuss this with your doctor. You will likely need epinephrine. And, I can teach you how to use it safely and with confidence. Carry it with you at all times.
When traveling, alert airlines about your life-threatening allergy. Also wear a medical alert bracelet or neck tag. And, carry a document with signs and symptoms of your allergy and instructions about treatment. If your child is the one with the severe allergy, be sure to share an emergency action plan with childcare providers and teachers.