What should I use first to treat an anaphylactic reaction?
Epinephrine is the first-line medication that should be used in the emergency management of a person having a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.
There are three types of auto-injectors currently available in Canada:
EpiPen® – Learn how to use an EpiPen it at www.epipen.ca
Allerject® - Learn how to use an Allerject at www.allerject.ca
Whether it's an EpiPen or an Allerject, teens with food allergies must always carry it with them.
Should I use other medications at the first sign of a reaction?
Antihistamines and asthma medications must not be used as first-line treatment for an anaphylactic reaction. While they will do no harm when given as additional or secondary medication, they have not been proven to stop an anaphylactic reaction. Epinephrine is the only treatment shown to stop an anaphylactic reaction.
Would I require a second dose of epinephrine?
While epinephrine is usually effective after one injection, the symptoms may recur and further injections may be required to control the reaction. If the symptoms have not improved or are getting worse, a second dose may be given within 10 to 15 minutes, or sooner, after the first dose is given.
Once epinephrine has been injected, do I need to go to the hospital?
All individuals receiving epinephrine must be transported to a hospital immediately for evaluation and observation. Anaphylaxis may have a “biphasic” course, meaning that symptoms may return after the initial allergic reaction. Repeat attacks have occurred hours later without additional exposure to the offending allergen, therefore, observation in a hospital setting is necessary.
What should I do if I feel dizzy during an allergy reaction?
Individuals experiencing anaphylaxis who are feeling faint or dizzy should lie down, unless they are vomiting or having difficulty breathing.
Am I responsible for giving myself the auto-injector if I have a reaction?
No person should be expected to be fully responsible for self-administration of an epinephrine auto-injector. You may be anxious about using a needle, may downplay the seriousness of a reaction, or may not want to draw attention to yourself. Assistance from others is crucial in these circumstances.
I have asthma: Does this affect anaphylaxis?
Yes. People with asthma who are also diagnosed with anaphylaxis are more susceptible to severe breathing problems when experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. It is extremely important for asthmatic patients to keep their asthma well controlled. In cases where an anaphylactic reaction is suspected but there is uncertainty whether or not the person is experiencing an asthma attack, epinephrine should be used first. Epinephrine can be used to treat a life-threatening asthma attack as well as a severe allergic reaction. For more information on managing asthma, visit the Asthma Society’s website.
See Food Allergy Canada’s webpage on auto-injectors.