Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction and in a majority of cases, the patients have to be admitted to a hospital for anaphylaxis treatment. Given below is some information on how this condition is treated.
Allergies or allergic reactions are basically hypersensitivity reactions of the immune system to certain foods, environmental irritants, drugs or any other substance that it perceives to be a threat. When one comes into contact with such substances or ingests a food item that one may allergic to, the immune system activates specialized cells called mast cells.
These are cells that are located under the connective tissues located just under the skin. The allergenic substance attaches itself to the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies present on the mast cells. The mast cells release chemicals called histamines in order to launch an attack on the allergenic substance.
Histamine combines with the histamine receptors that are located in the endothelium, smooth muscles and various parts of the body. Since release of histamine increases the permeability of the vascular structures, the fluid from the blood vessels starts leaking out. The inflammatory response that is caused due to secretion of histamines gives rise to various distressing symptoms.
When the whole body is affected by the allergic reaction, a life-threatening situation can arise. This is medically referred to as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis could prove to be fatal if the sufferer doesn’t receive medical treatment on time. In this article, we will find out about the various aspects of anaphylaxis treatment.
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis is considered to be a medical emergency, which is why, medical help must be sought immediately. Thus, an awareness must be created about the characteristic signs of an anaphylactic shock. Anaphylaxis is a severe form of allergy, where more than one organ system of the body is involved. It is marked by a rapid onset of symptoms such as hives, swelling of tongue, lips and throat, facial swelling, flushing of the skin, wheezing, anxiety, irregular pulse, low blood pressure and lightheadedness. One may even lose consciousness.
The aforementioned symptoms are indicative of the effects of a severe allergic reaction on the skin, respiratory system and the circulatory system. If anaphylaxis is caused due to an allergenic food, the digestive system could also get affected. The severity of the symptoms of anaphylaxis may vary from person to person. If allergy medication is administered soon, the drugs would soon alleviate the symptoms. Sometimes, the symptoms may recur after a few hours. The recurrence of symptoms is medically referred to as a late phase reaction, however, it is not a common phenomenon. In severe cases, wherein the patient experiences an explosive reaction, the patient would have to be hospitalized.
Treatment of Anaphylaxis
Those who suffer from conditions, such as asthma or eczema, are at a greater risk of developing an anaphylactic shock, and must therefore, take precautionary measures. If a person has experienced an anaphylactic shock earlier, he/she must follow the guidelines given by the allergy specialist regarding the preventive management of anaphylaxis.
The avoidance of the allergen is the best way to prevent an anaphylactic shock. If one does exhibit the aforementioned symptoms, medical assistance must be immediately sought for emergency treatment. Given below are some of the basic treatment guidelines for management of a severe allergic reaction.
Management of Respiratory Distress
Since the cardiovascular system can get affected by a severe allergic reaction, one may suffer from respiratory distress during such a reaction. If the patient’s breathing has stopped, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must be performed. CPR is an integral part of airway management. For the same reason, oxygen supplementation forms an important part of anaphylaxis treatment in hospital. There is a great need to ensure that the patient does not suffer from complications due to low oxygen levels in blood.
Anaphylaxis causes swelling of the throat, and the patient may not be in a position to swallow, which is why, he/she may not be able to eat or drink. Under such circumstances, fluids would have to be administered intravenously. Doctors would also need to conduct certain diagnostic procedures in order to assess the condition of the patient. This would enable them to ascertain the amount of fluids that needs to be administered intravenously. It is essential that any kind of imbalance in the intravascular fluids is corrected.
Since the release of histamines causes the fluids to leak from the blood vessels, epinephrine is administered so as to constrict the blood vessels. Epinephrine is a fast-acting hormone that is known for inducing the ‘flight or fight response’. Administration of epinephrine causes the heart to pump blood at a faster rate, and also helps in widening the airways to the lungs. It reverses the effects of the substances released during the anaphylactic shock, and is used as a part of emergency treatment.
It is the release of histamines by the mast cells that gives rise to the allergic reaction, which is why, allergy treatment involves the use of antihistamines. Antihistamines are a class of drugs that reverse the effect of histamines, and are therefore used for alleviating allergy symptoms. Corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory drugs may also be prescribed in order to bring down the inflammation.
Since anaphylaxis may cause a considerable drop in the blood pressure, drugs may also be prescribed to stabilize the patient’s blood pressure. Doctors would monitor the blood pressure, heart rate and breathing and only when the patient’s condition seems to be stable, he/she would be discharged.
When it comes to anaphylaxis, the importance of a timely diagnosis and treatment cannot be stressed enough. A timely treatment can save one’s life which is why people who have suffered from anaphylaxis before, must be ready with an anaphylaxis action plan. It would be best to keep allergy medication with you at all times. Wearing a medical alert bracelet can also help. Avoidance of the allergen is the best way to prevent an allergy, so refrain from consuming foods and avoid contact with environmental allergens. One can also undergo allergen immunotherapy to desensitize yourself and increase the tolerance to the allergen.