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  • Writer's pictureNikita Chand

Allergic Reaction versus Anaphylactic Reaction

Updated: Jun 15, 2023

Learn the key differences of an allergic versus an anaphylactic reaction, and save your patient’s life today!

Allergic Reaction

Many people have food allergies that can cause mild to severe reactions if they were to accidently consume them. Your patient will have highlighted allergies before you care for them. Some common allergies are peanuts, soy, dairy, gluten, shellfish. People can also have significant allergies to medications as well, therefore you should always review your patients medication allergies before giving them it for the first time. It will be your responsibility to identify and act if your patient shows signs of an allergic reaction or anaphylactic reaction.

Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction are rash, hives, itchiness. The treatment for an allergic reaction is to give the medication Benadryl. This will help with reducing the symptoms of an allergic reaction. It will take about 15 to 30 minutes to be effective. If your patient can swallow, then give one dose of the medication: Benadryl 50 mg.

If your patient is still complaining of symptoms of an allergic reaction after 30 minutes, then contact your supervisor for more guidance. If you have any concerns about your patient you can also call 911 for emergency assistance.

Anaphylactic Reaction

Anaphylactic Reaction is a very severe reaction to an allergen. This is a medical emergency that will require swift action to prevent your patient from having a complete airway obstruction. Usually anaphylaxis symptoms will occur within seconds to 30 minutes of a person ingesting a possible allergen.

With Anaphylaxis, an allergen introduced into the body causes an exaggerated immune response by the body. One of the drastic responses that occurs in the body is airway swelling. As a result of airway swelling in the tongue and upper airways, the exchange of oxygen becomes significantly diminished.

Signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis are: Lips or tongue swelling, shortness of breath, complaints of shortness of breath, anxiety, “itchy or scratchy” throat, rash, skin color changes to blue, dusky or purple, loss of consciousness, increased breathing rate, rash, stomach complaints, nausea, vomit, diarrhea.

If you think your patient is having an anaphylactic reaction, give the medication Epinephrine 0.5mg deep into the thigh muscle and call 911 immediately.

The only way to reverse and limit the amount of airway swelling is to give the patient the medication Epinephrine 0.5mg by deep injection into the thigh muscle. You can give this medication up to 3 times every 5 minutes. Common side effects experienced by this medication are increased heart rate and anxiety. However, this is a life saving medication that must be given in this emergency situation. The sooner this medication is given the better the outcome will be.

Benadryl will not be effective if your patient is having a true anaphylactic reaction, the patient needs epinephrine.

EpiPen – Remember when giving this medication “Blue lid to the sky, orange to the thigh”

Patients that have a known history of Anaphylaxis will have an Epinephrine (Anaphylaxis Kit with EpiPen) in their home that they will also always travel with. With EpiPen, remember “Blue to the sky and orange to the thigh,” when administering it. Also, the EpiPen needle is strong enough to pierce clothing without needing to remove their pants. You will be trained by MDHHC on how to confidently administer epinephrine to your patient if they are having an anaphylactic reaction.

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