Health Library

Health Library

Anaphylaxis

What is anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis, also called anaphylactic shock, is a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction to an allergen. (The items that your child is allergic to are called allergens.) Call 911, this is an emergency. The reaction to the allergen can occur seconds to as long as an hour after the exposure. It is necessary to have come in contact with the allergen at a previous time for sensitization to occur.

What causes anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is caused by exposure to an allergen. The type of allergen may be different for every child. Some of the most common causes include the following:

  • Medications, such as penicillin

  • Foods

  • Dyes used for medical procedures

  • Allergy injections

  • Insect stings

  • Latex

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis?

The following are the most common symptoms of anaphylaxis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Tightness, itching, or swelling of the throat

  • Hoarseness

  • Coughing, wheezing, chest pain, chest tightness, or difficulty breathing

  • Swelling or itching of the lips or tongue

  • Uneasy sensation or agitation

  • Generalized hives

  • Severe itching, redness, or swelling of the skin

  • Nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps

  • Stomach pain

  • Heart failure

  • Irregular heartbeats, or a weak pulse

  • Stuffy or runny nose and/or sneezing

  • Dizziness or confusion

  • Fainting or shock

The symptoms of anaphylaxis may resemble other medical conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

What is the treatment for anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child needs immediate medical attention. Your child's doctor will probably treat him or her with an injection of epinephrine, which will help stop the severe effects caused by the allergen. If your child does have an anaphylactic reaction to an allergen, his or her doctor may instruct you on the use of epinephrine and two doses of this medication should be near your child in case of future episodes. The medication is usually injected into muscles of the outer thigh. A second dose may be needed in 5 to 30 minutes if symptoms are not improving. Discuss this with your child's doctor.

Anaphylaxis - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Pierce-Smith, Daphne, RN, MSN, CCRC
© 2014 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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