Published on Mar 28, 2011 with 1 comment
It is a sad fact, but most fatal allergic reactions could be prevented by the early recognition of allergic symptoms and the rapid self administration of epinephrine, in the form of an Epipen or Twinject auto-injector.
Most life threatening reactions are caused by food allergies, medication allergies, and stinging insect allergies. Essentially any food can trigger an allergic reaction, but the most common ones that cause severe anaphylaxis are: peanuts, tree nuts (e.g., walnut, pecan, almonds, cashew, Brazil nut), shellfish, fish, milk, and eggs.
The venom of stinging insects such as yellow jackets, honeybees, wasps, hornets are common causes of anaphylaxis, as is the biting fire ant in certain geographical areas of the U.S.
Virtually any medication can trigger an allergic reaction. Common categories of drugs that cause anaphylaxis are aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), antibiotics, and anti-seizure medicines.
Upon exposure in the allergic individual, these allergens can initiate a severe, total body allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, whose symptoms may include urticaria (hives), a generalized sensation of warmth, vomiting, abdominal cramping, difficulty breathing, and circulatory collapse resulting in a rapid decrease in blood pressure and shock. The rapid injection of an Epipen or Twinject can slow down or eliminate the allergic reaction, but it must be injected as quickly as possible. The earlier the injection in the course of a reaction, the more likely the epinephrine is to control and stop the serious effects of anaphylaxis. Approximately 20-30% of all reactions require a second or third dose of epinephrine.
For anyone who has experienced a systemic allergic reaction or who is recognized as being at high risk, it is imperative that they or their caregivers have at least two auto-injectors of epinephrine with them at all times. They should be at home, in the workplace, school, daycare, homes of relatives, or any environment where an allergic individual frequents. One should avoid exposure of these devices to extremes in temperatures, such as in automobile glove compartments, as they are temperature sensitive and can lose their potency. They also lose their potency with the passage of time and, therefore, should be constantly monitored for expiration dates.
It is also imperative that patients or caregivers understand both the indications for and the proper techniques for the administration of an Epipen or Twinject. Demonstration devices are available and health care professional should demonstrate technique when prescribing these auto-injectors. You can also watch how to use an Epipen or how to use a Twinject auto injector.
Prevention of anaphylaxis is a public health responsibility which is shared by health care providers, patients, and care-givers, especially parents of young children. Education must be made available with regard to avoiding exposure to the allergic agent, recognition of an allergic reaction, and rapid treatment including the immediate administration of the Epipen or Twinject.