By Angela Pirisi
Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that can be life-threatening. What happens is essentially the same thing that occurs with other milder allergic reactions, but in more than one place in the body at once, and to a more extreme degree. Anaphylaxis could bring on vomiting and an itchy mouth, for instance. Or it could lead to swelling of the respiratory passages severe enough to prevent breathing, or to full-blown anaphylactic shock; a drop in blood pressure that brings about fainting and dizziness and can lead to coma and even death. Here are the signs that anyone should be able to recognize, whether they have an allergic child or not.
Skin hives, swelling, itching, warmth, redness, rash
Respiratory (breathing) wheezing, shortness of breath, throat tightness, cough, hoarse voice, chest pain/tightness, nasal congestion or hay fever-like symptoms (runny, itchy nose and watery eyes, sneezing), trouble swallowing
Gastrointestinal (stomach) nausea, pain/cramps, vomiting, diarrhea
Cardiovascular (heart) pale/blue colour, weak pulse, dizzy/lightheaded, passing out, shock
Other anxiety, feeling of “impending doom,” headache
Approximately one to two per cent of Canadians live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction, and many are diagnosed when they are children. Food is the most common cause of anaphylaxis but insect stings, medicine, latex or even exercise can also cause a reaction in some. The most common food allergens leading to anaphylaxis are peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, egg and milk products. To help avoid these dangerous episodes, it’s best to watch for and act upon early signs of food allergy in kids, since allergic reactions can get progressively worse. “Most likely, kids with food allergies will have had minor reactions as babies, such as eczema, hives, swelling and vomiting,” explains Chad. It’s probably a good idea to get your kids tested for food allergy if clues suggest there’s one lurking.
If you do learn that your child has an allergy that could lead to anaphylaxis, here is what you need to do to prepare for a potential emergency.
If it seems like there’s a large focus on peanuts, that’s because peanut is the leading cause of severe, life-threatening and even fatal allergic reactions — and it can take just a trace amount to cause a life-threatening reaction. That’s why parents who have a child with a peanut allergy are always on high alert for possible exposure, whether they’re scrutinizing food labels, preparing meals with due caution, or practising strict hygiene in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. But other parents and their kids need to take safety measures too, in order to prevent exposure among allergic kids at play dates, parties, in carpools, or just at school. Here are some things you can do to ensure kids are peanut-free at school and home.