What is an Anaphylactic Shock

What is Anaphylactic Shock 

A certified online training course in Anaphylaxis; how to recognise the signs and symptoms, and how to treat it should the situation arise. This type of course is accessible to all and is vital in the education of dealing with such a life-threatening situation. Our online course is suitable for health care workers, support workers, and any individuals who want or need to know more about the condition.

Learning Outcomes – This module will cover the following topics:

  • What is Anaphylaxis
  • Signs & Symptoms
  • Who is affected?
  • Causes and Triggers
  • Causes of Anaphylaxis
  • Diagnosing Anaphylaxis
  • Treating someone who has Anaphylaxis
  • The Recovery Position
  • What does recovery do?
  • The Influenza Vaccination

What is an Anaphylactic Shock?

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction, most commonly taken to food, insect bites, latex and medications. This form of allergic reaction is the most serious, and it results in life-threatening allergy symptoms which require urgent medical attention.

Usually, when a person has an allergic reaction to something, their immune system will release a chemical due to it overreacting, and it is this that causes the allergy symptoms. While most allergy symptoms are unpleasant, they are not necessarily harmful, however, when a person has a serious potentially life-threatening reaction, it is called Anaphylaxis.

Someone who has an Anaphylactic shock will need immediate medical attention, and if it is not treated correctly and with speed, it can be fatal. Treatment is usually an injection of epinephrine or adrenaline. Those who already have existing conditions such as Asthma, or other forms of allergies, or perhaps who have a family history of Anaphylaxis, are at higher risk of having this sort of serious reaction. In cases such as these, it is always best to educate the people around them in what to do if they are to suffer from Anaphylaxis.

How do you treat Anaphylactic shock?

When someone goes into Anaphylactic shock, it is a medical emergency. Those who have suffered Anaphylaxis previously might have an auto-injector of adrenaline to immediately administer, however, it is important to still attend the A&E department of the hospital straight away too. If you cannot get to the hospital straight away in a car, then call for an ambulance. For those who carry an injection – it is advised that the injection is administered into the outer thigh muscle, holding it in place for 5 – 10 seconds. If the person still feels unwell after the medicine has been given, another injection can be given in the opposite thigh. Either way, the person should be taken to the hospital as a matter of urgency, whether they have received an injection or not.

Have the person sit up if they are having any difficulty breathing, this should help them with their breathing, otherwise, they should lie flat and raise their legs slightly onto a small stool or chair. Assume them into the recovery position if they are unconscious, and if the person’s breathing stops, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) will need to be performed. As you can guess, this is not a matter for the inexperienced, and emergency medical attention is required.

Signs that a person has had a severe allergic reaction in the form of an Anaphylactic shock are; feeling dizzy or feeling faint, difficulty breathing, or going unconscious. Many other serious symptoms will accompany these, however, and it is vital that action is taken straight away.

Once in the hospital, breathing apparatus might be used, and blood tests can be taken in order to confirm Anaphylaxis. It is usual for the patient to then stay under medical supervision for 6 – 12 hours just to ensure the reaction does not flare up again.

What are the symptoms of Anaphylaxis?

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis can be incredibly severe and life-threatening as we have already discussed, these include;

    • Swelling of the eyes, lips, feet and hands
    • Swelling of the throat or tongue
    • Itchy skin and a severe rash of red and raised skin
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Difficulty breathing, and wheezing
    • Nausea and vomiting
  • Collapsing unconscious

Symptoms do vary in those who suffer an Anaphylactic shock. Some people can have an onset of milder symptoms such as a hive rash, while others might show no other signs and suddenly collapse unconscious. Outside factors might increase the severity of certain symptoms too, such as being in excessive heat or drinking alcohol.

It is important to bear in mind that the majority of allergic reactions are not Anaphylactic, and symptoms that present themselves in a mild or moderate way, no matter how unpleasant, can be treated with an anti-histamine. However, should someone suffer a severe reaction that presents any of the above symptoms, they should be taken to the hospital as a matter of urgency.

Why does Anaphylactic Shock occur?

When Anaphylaxis occurs, it is due to the immune system over-reacting and releasing a chemical such as a Histamine in order to deal with what it sees as a threat. The substance that causes this reaction is usually harmless, however, the body does not treat it as such and over-reacts.

There are a collection of substances that commonly trigger Anaphylactic Shock in those prone to Anaphylaxis, however, it could be anything that acts as a trigger. The most common substances however are;

    • Insect bites and stings, especially from bees and wasps
    • Peanuts, and other nuts such as walnuts, cashews and almonds
    • Milk and eggs
    • Shellfish, and other seafood
    • Certain fruits; bananas, kiwi, strawberries
    • Medicines, mostly anti-biotics such as Penicillin
  • Rubber Latex

While there is no test to determine who is susceptible to such a severe reaction, those with a history of such, or those with existing conditions, are likely to be more prone.  As are people with Cardiovascular disease. It is therefore important to be educated on how to recognise such a reaction, and how to deal with the situation should it arise.

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