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22 February 2018

Anaphylactic Shock – What It Is and What To Do About It

The bogeyman of the playground and the office, anaphylactic shock is a serious medical condition that can have fatal consequences if left untreated. While brought on by a range of causes such as insect bites and stings and certain medications, it's most commonly publicly known as the most severe negative reaction a person with a food allergy can have.

Rising awareness of the prevalence and severity of some food allergies has led to new focus being put on anaphylactic shock, but there still exists a startling lack of knowledge about how it functions and what management strategies can be employed. In this blog, Wilson Medic One gives you the crucial information you need to recognise and understand anaphylactic shock, and tells you how to manage it.

One of three classifications

Anaphylactic shock is one variant of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that appears rapidly and can be potentially fatal. Anaphylactic shock specifically refers to a case of anaphylaxis where system vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) occurs that results in a fall in blood pressure to a level 30% lower than their baseline. The other two classifications – biphasic anaphylaxis and pseudoanaphylaxis – have different symptoms but are still classified as anaphylaxis.

A serious cause for concern

The symptoms caused by vasodilation including respiratory difficulty and low blood pressure can be potentially life threatening, especially to young children who may unknowingly ingest an allergen. Low blood pressure can deprive the brain and other organs of oxygen and nutrients, causing shock and potentially death. Common external signs including itchy rashes, swelling of the tongue or throat, light-headedness and shortness of breath, so if you're the friend, partner or parent of someone with anaphylaxis, ensure you can recognise the symptoms for what they are. 

The need for a rapid response

Anaphylaxis can be deadly in as little as 15 minutes, leaving precious little time to act. Because of the often narrow window of survivability for anaphylaxis, most people with the condition carry an injector of epinephrine – commonly known as an EpiPen – with them at all times. This medication is an effective treatment for anaphylaxis, working to increase blood flow through veins affected by vasodilation and reducing swelling in airways, countering the two most fatal effects of anaphylaxis. Ensure you or the person with anaphylaxis in your life has a solid allergy response plan and that you know exactly what to do in the event of a reaction. 

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