Asthma and Anaphylaxis: What you need to know

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Anaphylaxis is a severe and life threatening allergic reaction that occurs within seconds-to-minutes of contact with the allergen - such as a food or bee venom.  If you or your child has asthma the risk of having this type of reaction is compounded.  While you can't prevent or predict every allergic reaction there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of a fatal reaction.

Talk to your doctor.

If you or your asthmatic child has any history of allergic reaction you need to talk with your physician about whether you should be carrying an Epi-pen.  My personal opinion is - when in doubt carry an Epi-pen.  The severity of previous reactions does not predict how severe the next reaction will be.  You definitely don't want to find this out the hard way.

Know the symptoms and treatment for anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis can present symptoms like hives, itching, flushed or pale skin, lump in the throat, problems breathing, dizziness, fainting, nausea and vomiting.  Symptoms of anaphylaxis can go from bad to worse quickly so treatment has to be administered quickly.  In an emergency situation the first line of defense against anaphylaxis should be epinephrine.  Delay can be deadly.

Ask about the policy at your child's school.

Up to 22 percent of the cases of anaphylaxis in schools occurs in children with no previous history of an allergic reaction.  If not for new laws and free programs like Epi-pens for Schools many more of those reactions would be deadly.  Seconds count with anaphylaxis and waiting for an ambulance can sometimes mean waiting too long.  If your state doesn't allow epinephrine auto injectors in schools then push for the legislation.

Push for public access to epinephrine.

Seventeen states have passed legislation that allows, but does not require, epinephrine to be stocked in public places.  Just like defibrillators have become accessible in many public entities in case of heart attack - epinephrine also needs to be accessible.  In both of these situations delay can be fatal.  If your state does not allow public access to epinephrine then be vocal about it.  If you have asthma this issue should be on the forefront of your radar.  The life you save could be your own or your child's.

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