Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, with symptoms including itching, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and weakness. This reaction may result from a range of allergens including bee stings and peanuts. If you suspect anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately. Then, use an epinephrine auto-injector, if one is available.
Epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, is a drug that counteracts anaphylactic reactions and reverses the side effects. Epinephrine delivered by injection is the only available immediate treatment for anaphylaxis, and should be given as soon as possible.
Many people who know they have a severe allergy carry an auto-injector syringe of epinephrine (such as an Epi-Pen) with them at all times. Available by prescription only, each device contains one dose of medication. To use the auto-injector for anaphylaxis, pull the cap off the device. Then firmly press the end of the auto-injector into the front of the thigh. It is best to use it directly against the skin, though the injector will work through clothing. Hold it there for at least ten seconds to deliver the dose of epinephrine. Once used, the needle of the syringe will be exposed. The empty device can be disposed of by medical personnel.
Once the epinephrine enters the blood stream, the effects are rapid. Epinephrine affects a wide range of body tissues, serving to increase heart rate, open airways, and reduce swelling. Emergency medical treatment should be sought even as the initial symptoms of the allergic reactions subside – epinephrine is a critical treatment for anaphylaxis, but is not an alternative to seeking medical attention for the reaction.