Fatal Allergic Reaction
Anaphylaxis is the life-threatening form of allergic
reaction. It is sudden,violent and frightening. It may begin with
severe itching of the eyes or face, then other symptoms such as
vomiting, diarrhea, and difficulty with breathing may develop. If
the reaction is not stopped at this point, the symptoms may become
more severe, leading to a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness
and even death.
The frequency of fatal and near-fatal "anaphylactic reactions"
has risen over the past several years and is likely to continue
to rise. This has been especially true of food induced anaphylactic
reactions. Recent studies estimate that, in Canada, about one person
in 100 is at-risk and there may be as many as 50 deaths a year;
that's about one a week.
BE A SURVIVOR! FOLLOW THE THREE "A'S" OF ANAPHYLAXIS!
- Be aware that you may have the problem
if you have ever had a sudden severe allergic reaction.
- Be aware of precisely the cause of your anaphylaxis. Is it food,
insect stings, medications, or exercise? You will need an allergist
to make the diagnosis.
- Be aware that every situation may put you into contact with
your allergen. Each contact with your allergen may be a potentially
life-threatening one. Be very cautious and alert to the danger.
Once you know what your trigger is, be extremely careful to avoid
it. You can never take anything for granted.
Keep those foods which would cause anaphylaxis out of the house.
The foods and additive most likely to cause anaphylaxis are: peanuts,
nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk and sulfites. Before eating any
food, double-check that it does not contain your allergen because
food ingredients can change in any prepared food. Be vigilant and
assertive when eating away from home to ensure that you do not eat
a food containing your allergen.
Insect stings are dangerous for some, so if this is your allergen,
be careful where you sit or walk barefoot. Inform any doctor treating
you if you are allergic to medications. If your trigger is exercise-induced,
stop at the first sign of a reaction.
Despite all your awareness and careful avoidance, there is still
a chance of unavoidable exposure to your allergen. The time between
exposure to the allergen and death can be as short as ten minutes.
CARRY YOUR EMERGENCY KIT WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES, ESPECIALLY WHEN
YOU KNOW YOU MAY BE EXPOSED TO YOUR ALLERGEN!
You and your allergist should develop an action plan such as the
If you believe that you have been exposed to your allergen:
- If medications or injection of adrenaline/epinephrine have been
advised, always know how to use all the medications prescribed
for an anaphylactic reaction. Your doctor or pharmacist will assist
- These medications and injection comprise your emergency kit.
Always have your emergency kit within reach and on your person.
You may not have time to go for it.
- Do not underestimate your allergic reaction by wasting time.
After you have self-administered adrenaline/epinephrine, go to
the nearest hospital's Emergency Department.
- If your symptoms return or worsen on the way to hospital, adrenaline
can be administered every 15 minutes. If you will be more than
15-30 minutes from a hospital, carry an injection for every 15
minutes. So if your hospital is 1 hour away, you would need three
- Be aware that in most jurisdictions, ambulances do not carry
adrenaline nor are the personnel allowed to administer it.
- Limit your physical effort, obtain help and do not overexert
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For more information:
Lilly Byrtus, Regional Coordinator Prairies/NWT/Nunavut,
Allergy/Asthma Information Association
16531 - 114 Street, Edmonton, AB T5X 3V6
Phone/Fax (780) 456-6651 Email: email@example.com
Allergy/Asthma Information Association (AAIA)
Box 100, Toronto, Ontario M9W 5K9
Phone (416) 679-9521 or 1-800-611-7011 Fax: (416) 679-9524
Web Site: www.aaia.ca Email:
of Use: The information
on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your
general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything
you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.
Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions
This article courtesy of the Allergy/Asthma
Information Association at www.aaia.ca and the Calgary Allergy Network
web site at www.calgaryallergy.ca. May be reproduced for educational,
non-profit purposes with proper attribution.
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