Definition• Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening, generalised or systemic hypersensitivity reaction.• This is characterised by rapidly developing life-threatening airway and/or breathing and/or circulation problems usually associated with skin and mucosal changes.
Anaphylaxis is likely when all of the following 3 criteria are met• Sudden onset and rapid progression of symptoms• Life-threatening Airway and/or Breathing and/or Circulation problems• Skin and/or mucosal changes (flushing, urticaria, angioedema)The following supports the diagnosis:• Exposure to a known allergen for the patient
Remember• Skin or mucosal changes alone are not a sign of an anaphylacticreaction• Skin and mucosal changes can be subtle or absent in up to 20% ofreactions (some patients can have only a decrease in blood pressure,i.e., a Circulation problem)• There can also be gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. vomiting,abdominal pain, incontinence)
Differential diagnosis• Asthma – this is commonest in children.• A low blood pressure (or normal in children) with a petechial or purpuric rashcan be a sign of septic shock.• Faint (vasovagal episode).• Panic attack.• Breath-holding episode in child.• Idiopathic (non-allergic) urticaria or angioedema.
Discharge from hospital• Patients with a good response to initial treatment should be warned of the possibility of an early recurrence of symptoms and in some circumstances should be kept under observation for up to 24 hours.• Considered for anti-histamines and oral steroid therapy for up to 3 days. This is helpful for treatment of urticaria and may decrease the chance of further reaction.