Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction to a food or environmental stimulant. The most common stimulants in Canada are peanut, tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, sesame seeds, soy and wheat. Insect stings such as yellow jackets, hornets, wasps and honey bees are can also trigger an anaphylactic reaction. Medications as well as rubber latex can also trigger a reaction.
Signs and symptoms of a anaphylactic reaction can be categorized into five categories:
- Skin system: hives, swelling, itching, warmth, redness, rash
- Respiratory system (breathing): coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain/tightness, throat tightness, hoarse voice, nasal congestion or hay fever-like symptoms (runny itchy nose and watery eyes, sneezing), trouble swallowing
- Gastrointestinal system (stomach): nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
- Cardiovascular system (heart): pale/blue colour, weak pulse, passing out, dizzy/lightheaded, shock
- Other: anxiety, feeling of “impending doom”, headache, uterine cramps, metallic taste
Any sign or symptom should be dealt with immediately as the severity can change rapidly. Every athlete with severe allergies should have an emergency plan. Included in this plan should be knowledge of past reactions, location of epinephrine auto injector. Anaphylaxis policy changes depends on your province and school board, it is important to check what is allowed or not allowed in your jurisdiction.
In North America there available auto-injectors include Twin Jet, Epipen and Allerject. The amount of epinephrine comes in two dosage strengths and is based upon weight. Consultation with your physician and pharmacist as to the appropriate dosage.
The management plan for an anaphylactic reaction:
1) Give epinephrine auto-injector at first sign of reaction
2) Call 9-1-1
3) Administer second dose of epinephrine if available
Having a well planned out plan for any emergency is important, knowing what to do when that emergency is an anaphylactic reaction is the difference between life and death.
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