First aid

Updated 16 January 2015

Use epinephrine quickly for severe allergic reactions

New guidelines state that medical professionals need to be able to identify anaphylaxis and understand that a person suffering from a severe allergic reaction requires immediate treatment with epinephrine.


People having a severe allergic reaction need immediate treatment with the medication epinephrine, newly released guidelines say.

But, not all medical personnel are aware of the importance of epinephrine, according to the guideline authors.

A severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) caused by food, latex or an insect sting can lead to throat swelling, breathing problems, heart attack and even death. Epinephrine can halt that severe allergic reaction.

There is virtually no reason not to use epinephrine on people believed to be suffering a severe allergic reaction, according to the guidelines from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Since emergency department physicians are often the first to see patients who are suffering from anaphylaxis, it's especially important that they not only correctly diagnose the problem, but understand that epinephrine should be administered as soon as possible," lead author on the guidelines and emergency department physician Dr. Ronna Campbell said in a college news release.

Read: People need training in lifesaving epinephrine use

Patients should be referred to an allergist for follow-up care

"In addition, following a severe, allergic reaction, patients should be referred to an allergist, as allergists provide the most comprehensive follow-up care and guidance," Campbell added.

The guidelines were published online Dec. 2 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

"The collaboration between emergency department personnel and allergists is vital," Dr. Stanley Fineman, ACAAI past president, said in the news release.

"At our recent annual scientific meeting, we convened an anaphylaxis roundtable discussion between emergency room physicians and allergists. We discussed how, together, we can get the word out about the importance of rapid epinephrine administration for those suffering from anaphylaxis. It's a message we want to get out to everyone dealing with severe allergies," Fineman said.

One study released at that meeting found that not all doctors know that epinephrine needs to be used first when treating an allergic reaction, while another found that having emergency supplies of epinephrine in schools saves lives.

Read more:
Preventing allergic reactions
What is making you sneeze?
New process may reduce allergic reaction to nuts

Image: Anaphylactic shock treatment from Shutterstock

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