What should be done to treat an episode of anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock?

Mild anaphylaxis that affects only one part of the body can be treated with local corticosteroids, administered to that site. Corticosteroids have the effect of weakening the immune system, and it is an overactive immune system which causes allergies and anaphylaxis.

The most important treatment that can be given is adrenaline. People who suffer from episodes of anaphylactic shock may often carry an Epipen with them, which is designed to administer adrenaline at the correct dose into the correct site in the body. If at first, the person does not get better with adrenaline, it should be administered every 5 – 10 minutes.

Other important things to do to the person immediately include:

  • Calling for an ambulance so further help can arrive
  • Making sure the person affected does not continue to remain exposed to the substance that triggered the anaphylaxis (the allergen). For example, this may include removing the bee sting
  • Changing the posture of the person. For people who are feeling faint, lying them down is a good way to help improve low blood pressure. For people who are struggling to breathe, sitting up will make breathing slightly easier than lying down. People who are unconscious should be put in the recovery position.
  • Ensuring the airways remain open. First aid training might be useful here.

Once an ambulance has arrived, other treatments may be given. The person may be given a tube that goes down their throat to keep the airways open, or they may be given β2 agonists to help keep the airways open. They will also probably be given oxygen. Corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone may prevent symptoms developing later on.

Anaphylaxis Guide Index:

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