Anaphylaxis. 2011 Guidelines.

The material posted in this blog on anaphylaxis is for information purposes only. If you want to learn to recognize and treat allergic reactions take first aid training in Vancouver with Vancouver First Aid Ltd. First aid training and CPR in Surrey is now also available.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and possibly life threatening condition created by an allergic reaction. They become life threatening when they affect the respiratory system and the victim can no longer breathe normally. Popular allergens include nuts , seafood and egg and dairy products.

The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis vary per person and per episode. There is no particular order in which the reaction occurs but they typically begin with redness along the back and swelling of facial features such as the lips, tongue and eyes. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • General itching
  • Hives
  • Redness of skin
  • Blotchy skin
  • Swelling,
  • Dizziness
  • Lowered level of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

The treatment of anaphylaxis includes, determining the need for medication and assisting if required, activating EMS, monitor ABC’s, and reassure patient (treat for shock). Epinephrine is the most commonly used medication for sever allergic reactions. Rescuers must follow employee guidelines and policies in respect to administering medications such as Epinephrine. Lifeguards in Vancouver trained with NLS are taught how to administer an Epinephrine but it is dependant on there employee guidelines whether they are allowed to administer the medication to victims. However, rescuers may assist the victim to take there medication. Patient must only take there medication and the rescuer should not allow the patient to use someone else’s medication. If the victim has difficulty breathing and the patients throat begins to swell, rescuer can apply ice to the throat to reduce swelling. Rescuers, can assist the victim’s breathing by breathing for them. However, rescuers should use protective equipment, such as a pocket mask, when assisting the victims breathing.


Our bodies produce a hormone named epinephrine, which is also called adrenaline, that it releases in times of stress. Injecting epinephrine into a victim during an allergic reaction can reverse the effects. It is important for the patient to administer the medication as early as possible after the onset of symptoms or known contact of the allergen. The reaction to the medication is almost immediate as it increases the victims heart rate, constricts blood vessels and allows the victim to breathe easier. If the victim takes his or her epinephrine they should still go immediately to the hospital via EMS (paramedics) as the effects of the injection wear off between 10 to 20 minutes of injection. The patient must also be monitored for further treatment.

Patients might be directed to take another medication called Benadryl, which is a antihistamine, after using there auto-injector. Rescuers may also assist the patient to take there antihistamine.

There are two types of epinephrine auto-injectors. One is the EpiPen and the other is the Twinjet. When using an epinephrine auto-injector, such as the EpiPen or Twinjet, the medication should not be used if the solution is discolored (pink or brown) regardless if it is in-date. If the patient has an outdated auto-injector, the patient is allowed to take the medication if the solution is clear and it is the only source of epinephrine. With the medication being outdated it is likely to be less effective and wear off quickly.

To apply medication patients must follow labelled instructions and hold injection in place for 10 seconds and slowly removing the injection. It is important to slowly remove the injection as it may have contacted bone and not released the full dosage during the 10 seconds. The Twinjet is slightly more complicated as it contains two dosages. 1 of out every 3 victims is required to have a second dose of epinephrine within 10 minutes of the first dose. The Twinjet contains a valuable second dose of Epinephrine. The first does is apply using the auto-injector. The second dose, if needed, is administered by removing the needle located in the barrel of the device.

Autoinjectors are fairly expensive and cost approximately 105 dollars. They also need to be replaced within every 6 months prior to expiry. It costs over 1000 dollars for someone to have an epipen for 5 years. With the medication being this expensive some people can not afford to own an Epipen. Some people forget there auto-injector. Others do not carry them everywhere as they can be bulky and large. It is important to have the skills to treat for anaphylaxis even if the victim does not have there medication with them.

To learn how to treat and recognize anaphylaxis and other life threatening emergencies take a  first aid course with Vancouver First Aid. Vancouver First Aid Ltd offers Red Cross first aid and Lifesaving Society first aid throughout the Lower Mainland including in Surrey, Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam and Vancouver. New first aid and CPR courses are available in Surrey. To register for a course select the course of your choosing from the sidebar or from the main menu bar located at the top of the page. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact us via telephone at 778.709.9180 or via email at . Learn to save the life of a loved one by learning first aid and CPR.

Anaphylaxis Facts:

500 deaths are recorded yearly from food allergens. (Lifesaving Society)

Over 3 million people in North America have a nut or peanut allergy. (Lifesaving Society)

5% of of children under the age of 3 suffer from a food allergy and 80% of the time they are out of parental care. (Lifesaving Society)

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