Anaphylaxis - Auto Injectors - Stuff

Pardon me?
What is Anaphylaxis anyway and what is an auto injector?

Lets start with the basics...
  • Allergy. 
Hay Fever for example, is an allergy to pollen. It causes a runny nose, watering eyes, sneezing etc. and can be a nightmare for people who suffer every year once the lawnmowers start coming out and spring has arrived. The weather guys on telly even give a pollen count throughout summer to help sufferers decide if they are going out that day, with or without the anti-histamine tablets.OK another big word...
  • Anti-histamine. 
When you come into contact with something your body sees as an alien invader, pollen or dust mites for example, this can set off an antibody response. These antibodies release histamine during the process of sorting out any invaders, and it is histamine that causes swelling, itching, hives etc. Imagine laying in bed at night, and the cat from down the road is screaming outside your window, irritating isn't it. Now imagine the cat is an allergen. An antibody would be the old slipper that's been under your bed for years, (you never did find out what happened to the other one, but that's another story). You launch the slipper with deft precision  heading in the direction of the cat's head. Pow! Allergen - Antibody war! The histamine would be the cloud of dust ejected from the slipper as it makes contact with the feline invader. An anti-histamine is what you use to 'clean up the dust' so to speak.
  • Anaphylaxis
This is the most extreme allergic reaction. With your usual allergy, histamine gets into your eyes, nose, skin etc. causing a reaction in those areas. Now it's got itself everywhere, it's in your bloodstream. It's going to cause symptoms everywhere. Eyes swell and close up. Your tongue and throat may start to swell, along with your airway. This makes breathing difficult. Your blood pressure falls as your arteries and veins dilate, your lungs and your heart rhythm are affected. Now this is a serious, life threatening allergy.
  • Anaphylaxis is a life threatening allergic reaction. 
Here, the first line of defence is adrenaline (epinephrine) given as an injection into muscle. People with known severe allergies should carry an auto injector with them. These have various names, ana-pen, epi-pen, Jext, etc. They should use it immediately they feel they are going into anaphylactic shock, then call 999 for an ambulance.
  • Now here's the myth bit. 
I'll keep this simple... 
  • NO you can not use Will's auto injector if Tommy Lee is having an allergic reaction.
  • NO you can not give an adult dose to a child.
  • NO you, as a lay person should not inject anyone else.
  • YES, you can assist Will to use his own auto injector. You can open the packet, take it out, remove it from it's case and even remove the safety cap. Then hand it to Will to inject himself with.
Now here's the bit where some people will panic, disagree, go all weak at the knees etc...
  • YES, if you have been trained to recognise anaphylactic shock, on a Beyond First Aid course for example, and you know the name on the label from the chemist matches the name of the person having the 'bad day' and the liquid in the device is clear and colourless, and the device is 'in date' (as should be your certificate/s to prove you're trained) and the person is unable to do it him or herself, YES inject them with the stuff. You may just save their life. 
Their Doctor has prescribed the drug, not you, so don't panic. As with ALL first aid, you get consent before you do ANYTHING. If a person is unconscious (for example) ASSUME CONSENT. By that I mean you do what is necessary to Preserve Life, Prevent Deterioration, and Promote Recovery,  you assume that if the casualty was able to give consent, they would. Never, and I mean NEVER do anything that you have not been taught. Never do anything because you 'saw it on telly' Stick to what you know and have a certificate for and you won't go far wrong.

Remember that guy up the top with his allergy? Here he is again, armed with his epi-pen

Pictures courtesy of Columbia Pictures (Hitch and Men in Black) Jext and Epi-pen

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