How to Successfully Manage an Anaphylactic Allergic Reaction

Gillian Sisley

According to health professionals, scientists, and survival statistics.

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It is predicted that about 32 million Americans suffer from a food allergy, and among those numbers, 40% of children in that number are at risk for anaphylaxis.

It's also estimated that every 2-3 minutes ERs receive a patient with a food-related allergic reaction. The most common food allergies worldwide are:

  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Soybeans
  • Tree Nuts
  • Wheat.

If you find yourself in a situation where someone you know unknowingly consumes a food allergin, and as a result their airway becomes compromised, here are the steps to follow.

#1. Identify that the reaction is taking place.

My best friend has been allergic to nuts since she entered puberty. And while the severity had gotten worse with each reaction throughout the years, she would only get numb lips and would throw up as a result before the point I will detail in this article.

She hadn’t had a reaction in 3 years, and they were so rare that we didn’t even think about it.

As mentioned above, the reactions had been majorly inconveniencing, often with her throwing up, but nothing worse than that. Certainly nothing life-threatening to this point.

We'd ordered the special dish of the night, which was described to us as a pasta and seafood dish. Our meals arrived, and they looked quite different from described.

We took a few bites, and things went south fast.

I saw the look on her face and knew something was horribly wrong.

“I think there’s nuts in this.”

#2. Call for emergency medical help.

I flagged down the server to ask, and she booked it to the kitchen. She returned to confirm that there was a pesto mixed in the tomato sauce, and there were pine nuts in said pesto.

My best friend and I locked eyes. I said to her, “This isn’t your normal kind of reaction.

She shook her head.

“No. This is bad. It’s getting harder to breathe.”

I dialed 911, and the ambulance arrived at the restaurant, carting her off to the hospital.

The fear in both our eyes, as we sat there hoping they would arrive before her airway fully closed, was horrifying.

#3. Use Epinephrine (EpiPen) to reduce the spread of the reaction.

As I stated above, my best friend's reactions had never been anaphylactic before. She knew she'd need an EpiPen one day, but after not suffering from an allergic reaction for three years, she wasn't in a rush to get one.

And thus, at the time of this reaction, she didn’t carry an EpiPen with her, because her allergy had never been this severe. That heightened the fear and stress for us.

Her airway had never started closing before. Her tongue had never swelled. Lips never doubled in size. Before now, she considered her intolerance to nuts a severe sensitivity, but never life-threatening.

She’d only taken one bite and almost gone into anaphylactic shock.

If you find yourself in an anaphylaxis situation with someone who carries an EpiPen, you can find a video demonstration of how to use it HERE. Also just make it normal to ask your friend to re-explain how to use it, and clarify where they carry it, if you ever forget.

#4. Prepare for the worst, and stay on your guard.

Next time she has an allergic reaction to nuts, she will require an EpiPen. The ER doctor laid it out pretty clearly-- next time won’t be a close call. Her airway will fully close.

The few days following the incident, I watched the reality of the situation roll through her mind as she processed what this would mean for her life going forward.

Before, she just had a mild allergy, practically an intolerance. Now, her allergy could threaten her life.

She has had to grieve the life she knew it, and accept the new life she now has: Life with a deadly allergy. Life with carrying an EpiPen wherever she goes. Life with being ever vigilant... But at least that way she’s still alive.

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