Dangerous Anaphylaxis Waiting Game
2 in 5 Wait to Seek Medical Help During a Potentially Life-Threatening Allergic Response
Nov. 9, 2009 - More than 40% of people suffering a potentially
life-threatening episode of anaphylaxis wait before seeking
medical attention, according to a new study.
Researchers say it's a dangerous waiting game, and more education is needed
to urge people with severe allergies to seek first aid and
immediate medical help during anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic response that affects the whole
body. It causes swelling that can lead to a blocked airway, hives, lowered blood pressure, fast heart rate, and wheezing. It is
considered a medical emergency because if not immediately treated, a person can
go into shock and die.
Anaphylaxis Symptoms Misunderstood
In the study, presented this week at the American College of Allergy, Asthma
and Immunology Annual Meeting in Miami, researchers surveyed 58 people who were
treated in an emergency department for anaphylaxis.
Overall, the average time between the start of anaphylaxis symptoms and
seeking medical attention was 20 minutes, but 43% reported a significant delay
in seeking medical attention. Of those who reported a delay, most said the
delay was because they thought their symptoms would subside.
About half used medications to treat their
anaphylaxis symptoms before seeking medical help, but less than a third with a
prescription for a self-injectable epinephrine shot used one. Epinephrine is the only
rapidly effective treatment for anaphylaxis.
Nearly 66% thought their symptoms were due to a severe allergy attack and
86% thought time to seek medical attention was of the essence. Most (67%)
traveled to the emergency room by car, 19% traveled by ambulance, and 14% by
"Despite a reasonable level of awareness, there is still room for
educational models to be implemented to expedite first aid and seek expert
medical care for anaphylaxis," writes researcher Veena Manivannan, MD, of
Rochester, Minn., in the study.