Anaphylaxis in Children

What is anaphylaxis in children?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening reaction to an allergen. An allergen is something that your child is allergic to. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child can have a reaction to an allergen within seconds or as long as an hour after contact.

What causes anaphylaxis in a child?

Anaphylaxis happens when a child comes in contact with an allergen. The kind of allergen may be different for every child. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Foods
  • Bee stings
  • Medicines
  • Dyes used for medical tests
  • Allergy shots
  • Latex

Which children are at risk for anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis can happen in people without known risk factors. But the risk is greater if your child has:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • A family history of anaphylaxis
  • Had anaphylaxis before

What are the symptoms of anaphylaxis in a child?

Symptoms most often appear quickly. Anaphylaxis may happen in seconds, minutes, or hours after being exposed to an allergen. Symptoms may include:

  • Tightness or swelling of the throat, tongue, or uvula. The uvula is the small, soft pendulum that hangs down in the back of your child's throat.
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Uneasy feeling or agitation, a feeling of impending doom
  • Widespread hives
  • Severe itching of the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Loss of bladder control

The symptoms of anaphylaxis may look like other health problems. Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is anaphylaxis diagnosed in a child?

A doctor can often diagnose anaphylaxis based on a health history alone. The healthcare provider will look at the following to make a diagnosis:

  • Any known allergies
  • Exposure to known or possible allergens
  • Description of symptoms
  • Physical exam, including blood pressure
  • Blood test results, in some cases

How is anaphylaxis treated in a child?

Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child will need urgent medical care. He or she will likely get a shot of epinephrine. This will help stop the bad effects caused by the allergen. Epinephrine given shortly after the exposure can reverse the symptoms. After the treatment, your child will need to be watched to make sure that they are not having any further reactions. Your healthcare provider can teach you how to use an epinephrine autoinjector in case there is another exposure. You should keep 2 epinephrine autoinjectors with your child in case of future events. Talk about this with your child’s healthcare provider.

What can I do to prevent anaphylaxis in my child?

The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to have your child stay away from known allergy triggers. For a bee sting allergy (venom allergy) there is treatment available to help prevent future allergic reactions. Talk with your child's healthcare provider about this treatment.

How can I help my child live with anaphylaxis?

If your child has anaphylaxis, you will want to cut the risk of future episodes. You can do this by figuring out the allergen that triggered the first episode. Then you can stay away from the trigger. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector. He or she will teach you how to use it. You can give the shot quickly if your child has another episode.

Key points about anaphylaxis in a child

  • Anaphylaxis is a severe, life-threatening reaction to an allergen.
  • Anaphylaxis is caused by allergies to things such as foods, medicines, bee stings, allergy shots, and latex.
  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis include tightness or swelling of the throat, tongue, or uvula. Also trouble breathing, hives, itching, nausea and vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and loss of bladder control.
  • Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Treatment will likely include a shot of epinephrine.
  • The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to stay away from known allergy triggers.
  • If your child has had anaphylaxis you may be prescribed an epinephrine autoinjector. Keep 2 epinephrine autoinjectors with your child at all times in case of a future event.
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