Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction that can occur within minutes of exposure to a trigger substance. The first line of treatment for an anaphylactic reaction is the injection of adrenaline using an epinephrine auto-injector such as an EpiPen or AnaPen.
EpiPen and AnaPen contain the active ingredient adrenaline, also referred to as epinephrine. Adrenaline is a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal glands in the body in times of stress. This prepares the body for extra energy exertion to allow the body to more readily handle life threatening situations.
When someone has an anaphylactic reaction they may encounter the following symptoms:
The adrenaline administered through an auto-injector works to reverse these symptoms by acting on alpha and beta adrenergic receptors in the body. The alpha receptors in your body are located on the walls of blood vessels. Adrenaline stops your blood pressure from falling too low by stimulating these receptors, causing the blood vessels to narrow. This also redirects blood to vital organs.
Other life threatening symptoms that adrenaline reverses include throat tightness, hives, itching and skin swelling. Adrenaline reduces throat tightness by acting on Beta receptors which are found in the heart and lungs. It opens and relaxes the airways by stimulating these receptors, making it easier to breathe. Adrenaline also stimulates beta receptors in the heart which make it beat stronger and faster.
Adrenaline should be administered to someone going into anaphylactic shock as soon as possible. An auto-injector is only used as emergency treatment. After experiencing anaphylactic symptoms you should also see a medical professional to receive further treatment.
Adrenaline auto-injectors are prescribed to those who are believed to have anaphylaxis. These injections come pre-filled with a solution that automatically injects when pushed firmly against skin. An EpiPen or AnaPen auto-injector should be injected into the outer-mid thigh and should NOT be injected into veins, fingers, toes, hands or feet. You should inject someone as soon as you detect the first signs of a serious allergic reaction. If you have anaphylaxis you should follow the advice of your doctor when using an auto-injector and carefully read the instructions that come with it. Always have your auto-injector with you so that you can inject adrenaline quickly if you experience an allergic reaction.
For a diagram and step by step instructions on how to use and auto-injector please see the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Action Plan for Anaphylaxis.
If someone’s symptoms and signs suggest anaphylaxis you should follow their Anaphylaxis Action Plan or take the following steps:
Please select your location and course