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How to Identify an Anaphylaxis Emergency
Anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, can be caused by insect stings, latex, foods, and medications. An anaphylactic response occurs rapidly, often beginning within seconds or minutes of exposure to the allergen.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include:
- Tingling sensation and/or itching
- Swelling of throat and mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or speaking
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting
- Sudden feeling of weakness (indicating a drop in blood pressure)
- Collapse and unconsciousness
- If you suspect anaphylaxis:
Don’t delay – call emergency services or 9-1-1 and get treatment immediately.
If available, administer auto-injectable epinephrine.
Help the patient lie down on his back and elevate the feet higher than the head. Try to keep him from moving unnecessarily.
Keep the patient warm and comfortable. Loosen tight clothing and cover him with a blanket. Do not give the patient anything to drink.
What to Expect When Calling 911
Calling 911 is an important step when seeking emergency medical treatment. Knowing ahead of time what to expect when summoning help is one way to alleviate anxiety during emergency situations.
When calling 911, it’s important to keep calm. Although you may be frightened, take a moment to compose yourself so you can provide emergency dispatchers with vital information.
Once you have a dispatcher on the line, you’ll be asked to:
- Describe the problem
- Give the age of the patient (and weight if it is a child)
- Give the location where emergency personnel can find you
Describe the condition of the patient:
- Is the patient active or lethargic?
- Is the patient’s skin pale, blanched, dusky, or bluish?
- Is the patient struggling to breathe?
- Is the patient breathing rapidly, slowly, or shallowly?
- If known, list any medications the patient is currently taking
In some states, the address where the phone call originates flashes on a screen at the 911 dispatch center. You may be asked to confirm this address or provide the address where you are calling from for the dispatcher.
Finally, do not hang up the phone until instructed to do so by the emergency dispatcher. Dispatchers are specially trained to assist you while waiting for an ambulance and may stay on the phone with you until emergency personnel arrive. By staying on the line, they can continue to gather information and monitor the situation as it develops.
What to Do Until Paramedics Arrive
So you’ve called 911 . . . now what?
- First, remain calm. Stay with the patient, offering support and encouragement that help is on the way.
- Follow the anaphylaxis management plan as prescribed by your physician (such as using an epinephrine auto-injector).
- If it is nighttime, turn on an outside light to help guide emergency personnel to your door.
- Have a written copy of the patient’s anaphylaxis or allergy management plan available, as well as a list of all medications currently being taken.
- If younger siblings are at home, make arrangements to have them stay with a neighbor or friend if necessary.
- Take a deep breath and try to stay calm.