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What should you do if someone around you suddenly develops severe allergic symptoms? Overview of the causes and the right actions to take.
Severe allergies are exaggerated reactions by the body to a trigger or “allergen” that is considered dangerous by the immune system. Ironically, by trying to protect the body against this “threat”, the immune system can set into motion an overreaction, which can lead to anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a generalized severe allergic reaction that affects several systems in the body, evolves quickly and can lead to death. It necessitates an immediate medical intervention.
After exposure to an allergen, a severely allergic person could show signs of the following symptoms:
If death occurs, it is usually caused by airway obstruction (choking) or due to blood circulation failure.
A number of substances or elements can cause allergies, but severe allergies are most often attributed to the following:
There is no medication or medical treatment that can “cure” an allergy. In nearly every case, a person with an allergy will remain allergic all of their lives. The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is to eliminate all exposure to the allergen involved. Everything possible must be done to reach this objective.
It is sometimes difficult to completely eliminate the presence of allergens in our environment, as is the case for people with a bee sting allergy, for example. However, in many other cases, such as a medication or food allergy, it is possible to maintain better control.
In the case of a severe allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis, swift action is necessary.
Epinephrine is available commercially in the form of an auto-injector for easy administration by the individual themselves or by someone coming to their assistance. The auto-injector is a syringe containing a dose of epinephrine, a substance that neutralizes an anaphylactic reaction. It must be used in all cases, as it is impossible to predict the evolution of the allergic reaction. Allergic reactions are unpredictable from one episode to the next.
As soon as the first signs of an allergic reaction appear, or if contact with an allergen is suspected, epinephrine must be injected immediately. The person must then go as quickly as possible to a health centre that provides emergency medical care.
Once there, medical personnel may administer other treatments to counter the effects of the allergic reaction such as, additional doses of epinephrine, antihistamines, corticosteroids, bronchodilators, etc. All of these treatments are complementary and cannot replace the benefits of the early injection of epinephrine.
If you have a severe allergy or you are at risk of an anaphylactic reaction, here is some additional advice:
Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist if you have questions about severe allergies or anaphylaxis.
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