One definition of anaphylaxis is “an acute allergic reaction to an antigen to which the body has become sensitive.” Let’s break down this definition and why it is so important to use your Epi Pen and seek medical attention should one have such a reaction.
- Acute – It occurs quickly and can rapidly change to involve several different body systems.
- Allergic reaction – symptoms can involve any body system – skin, breathing/chest, stomach, throat, swelling, anxiety, etc.
- Antigen – a toxin or substance that causes an immune reaction and can include venom, food, medication, latex, pollens.
- Sensitive – with an exposure your immune system develops antibodies to the antigen. This causes an increasingly rapid rate of reaction with future accidental exposures.
In summary, anaphylaxis is a BIG DEAL and should be taken very seriously. Your first line of defense and the ONLY actual treatment is epinephrine, so USE YOUR EPI PEN, should there be an actual or suspected exposure. Medications such as Benadryl and Zyrtec help treat the symptoms, but do not stop the reaction.
One should be evaluated by a medical professional immediately after the use of epinephrine. Vital signs need to be checked, symptoms monitored, and there is a risk of a second wave reaction.
A follow-up appointment with your allergist should also be scheduled. Our doctors and advanced practice providers are happy to work with you in providing education regarding Epi Pen use, strategies to reduce your risk of exposure, and creating a clear plan should an exposure occur.