Anaphylaxis statistics are increasing. The percentage of children under the age of 18 years with food allergies are only rising. We need to be prepared as parents, teachers, bus drivers, friends and loved ones on how to handle anaphylaxis. How do we do this? Education & Action Planning.
Autopsy results of Anaphylaxis
Autopsy results of people who died from anaphylaxis usually show the following results:
- Accumulation of fluids in the lungs (Pulmonary Congestion & Edema)
- Accumulation of fluids in the upper airway (Upper Airway Edema)
- Hyperinflation of the lungs and/or mucous plugging of airway
- Redness of the skin due to increased blood flow of the capillaries in the lower layers of skin/abnormal accumulation of fluids in the skin (Erythematous skin rash/cutaneous edema)
Why is there an overabundance of fluid during anaphylaxis?
Histamine is located inside mast cells which travel inside your blood stream. Fluid leakage occurs when histamine is released into the blood stream and tissue.
|Normal Mast Cells inside a Blood Vessel.
Histamine (blue) is contained inside the Mast Cell.
|Triggered Mast Cell releasing Histamine into the Blood Stream.|
How is histamine released?
Histamine is released into the blood stream and then leaked into tissue when a mast cell becomes triggered. One triggered mast cell can cause a chain reaction to many other mast cells inside the body resulting in a large amount of histamine being released. Allergenic foods, insect venom, and allergenic medications are just some of the things that can trigger a mast cell.
|Histamine being released by Mast Cells causing widening of blood vessels and fluid leakage.|
What type of reactions can histamine cause?
Histamine causes smooth muscles to contract. Smooth muscles are found in the walls of internal organs such as stomach, intestines, blood vessels, heart, and lungs. This contraction can result in abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, wheezing, difficulty breathing, respiratory distress, and respiratory arrest.
Histamine causes the widening of blood vessels (vasodialation) which decreases the ability to pump blood to the heart (hypotension). Decreased blood pressure causes heart, brain, lungs, and other parts of the body to not get enough blood resulting in low blood pressure, dizziness, and shock.
Histamine causes fluid to leak out of the blood vessels resulting in hives, swelling and itching of the throat and possible suffocation. A large amount of fluid leakage can result in shock.
How can I stop an allergic reaction?
Become educated in looking for signs of serious reaction based on your action plan and administer epinephrine immediately.
How does epinephrine work?
Epinephrine (adrenaline) stimulates the heart to pump harder and narrows blood vessels which increases blood pressure and decreases fluid loss. The smooth muscles are also affected by adrenaline by relaxing and allowing for proper function. Epinephrine (adrenaline) reverses the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Can I predict the severity of future reactions?
What can I do to protect myself or loved one with food allergies?
Always avoid the allergenic food. Have an Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan filled out by your physician immediately. Print out a sample action plan here. Call your doctor and insist on faxing the action plan to them, or requesting one of their own and having it filled out and returned ASAP. Once received, memorize the symptoms of a severe reaction and always carry two epinephrine devices (why two? I explain here). Also, always educate and prepare all caregivers to ensure that your child remains in safe care.
How do I receive an epinephrine device?
Request a prescription for an epinephrine auto-injector twin pack (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, Adrenaclick, Anapen, Jext, Allerject or Twinject) from your doctor immediately.
How do I become comfortable with the idea of administering epinephrine?
Educate yourself and others to have a complete understanding of anaphylaxis.
Memorize and understand your action plan completely and fully.
Role-play frequently using the trainer epinephrine device.
Practice administering expired epinephrine devices into oranges.
Always carry two epinephrine devices at ALL TIMES.
Do NOT delay administering epinephrine if symptoms of anaphylaxis (based on your action plan) occur.
As a parent of a child with multiple severe food allergies I strongly believe that these tools can save lives. It is because of education, action plans, and being prepared with epinephrine that my son is alive today. Please share this information with those that are affected by food allergies (caregivers, siblings, spouses, bus drivers, daycare providers, friends, etc) so that they too can be educated and prepared.
Easy Breezy Life
EBL Food Allergies
The medical information provided on this blog is, at best, of a general nature and cannot substitute for the advice of a medical professional (for instance, a qualified doctor/physician, nurse, pharmacist/chemist, and so on).