Anaphylactic Shock – First Aid Advice

Anaphylactic Shock – Introduction

So what is anaphylaxis? In its basics it’s a severe allergic reaction and in some cases can affect the whole body within minutes. The condition is usually caused by exposure to a substance which causes the allergic reaction which is known as an ‘allergen’. The body can react within minutes but sometimes after a few hours for the symptoms to take control of the body.

Anaphylactic shock is the most dangerous of all allergic reactions.

Recognition of Anaphylactic Shock

A decrease in blood pressure leaves the brain starving for oxygen. The allergen will cause inflammation in the lungs resulting in severe shortness of breath, creating a deadly combination.

If you believe someone is suffering from anaphylactic shock it is important that you can identify the following two points:

  1. Identifying the symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
  2. Identifying the exposure to an allergen that causes anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms will include:

  • Wheezing
  • Itching
  • Red, raised, blotchy skin (Hives)

Anaphylactic shock happens when the victim shows signs of low blood pressure:

  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Pale colour
  • Unconsciousness

Anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock often has symptoms of:

  • shortness of breath
  • Unable to speak more than one or two words
  • Sitting straight up or with hands on knees
  • Gasping for breath
  • Pursing lips to breathe
  • Using neck muscles to take breaths

Identify the Allergen

It will be difficult to identify the allergen in some cases especially if the symptoms show at a later stage and it may be required to investigate the movements and activities of the casualty 4-6 hours prior to the time of identifying that there is a problem.

An example may be those with allergies to bee stings will usually know they’ve been stung. Sometimes, however, there is no known allergen and the victim is simply developing symptoms of anaphylaxis. Anyone who’s had allergic reactions in the past should be aware of any symptoms, especially if no allergen has been identified. If you don’t know what it is that makes you sick, you don’t know when you’ve been exposed.

The situation can give you clues to figure out whether this is anaphylaxis. People with food allergies are more likely to have anaphylaxis while eating, even when they don’t think they’re eating the food they are allergic to.

Anaphylactic Shock Treatment

The first priority would be to identify the ‘allergen’ and often the treatment depends on how bad the reaction has been. Benadryl would be applied for a simple and mild reaction and to stop the reaction from developing. For a more serious case of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock may require the application of epinephrine.

What to do

  • Tight clothing, especially around the neck should be loosened and the patient should be made as comfortable as possible.
  • Lie them down flat on their back and raise their legs whilst you await further assistance. Do not place them in the recovery position.
  • CALL 999, and follow any advice given by the 999 call handler.
  • If there is another person, send them to flag down the ambulance.
  • Do not try to give the person stung any food or drink.
  • If the person’s heart stops or the breathing stops, resuscitation should be provided by a trained person.
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See also:

allergic reactions

GK First Aid Training offer a number of First Aid Courses that deal with anaphylactic shock. We offer both the 1 Day Emergency First Aid at Work and the 3 Day First Aid at Work Course. Both of these courses can be delivered directly to you in your workplace. Call us directly on 0800 774 7034 to discuss your requirements.