What Is Anaphylaxis? Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. Things that can cause allergic reactions are called allergens. Anaphylaxis (an-eh-fil-AK-siss) most often happens during allergic reactions to: foods insect stings medicines latex Anaphylaxis can be scary. But being prepared will help you treat a reaction quickly. What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Anaphylaxis? Allergic reactions can cause: trouble breathing throat tightness or feeling like the throat or airways are closing hoarseness or trouble speaking wheezing nasal stuffiness or coughing nausea, belly pain, vomiting, or diarrhea trouble swallowing fast heartbeat or pulse skin itching, tingling, redness, or swelling hives a feeling like something bad is about to happen pale skin passing out Anaphylaxis can cause different symptoms at different times. It's considered anaphylaxis if someone has: any severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, repeated vomiting, passing out, or throat tightness or two or more mild symptoms, such as hives and vomiting or coughing and belly pain The person needs treatment right away. How Is Anaphylaxis Treated? Someone with anaphylaxis needs help right away. The reaction can get worse very quickly. So doctors usually want people with allergies to carry injectable medicine called epinephrine. Epinephrine enters the bloodstream and works quickly against serious allergy symptoms. Doctors prescribe epinephrine auto injectors. These should always be with the child with allergies, including at school, sports, jobs, and other activities. The auto injector is small and easy to use. If the doctor prescribes epinephrine for your child, the doctor will show you how to use it. Two auto injectors should always be with your child in case one injector does not work or your child needs a second dose. Your doctor also might instruct you to give your child antihistamines in certain cases. But always treat a serious reaction with epinephrine. Never use antihistamines instead of epinephrine in serious reactions. What Should I Do If My Child Has a Serious Reaction? Seconds count during anaphylaxis. If your child shows signs of a serious allergic reaction: Give the epinephrine auto-injector right away. If you are alone with your child, give this medicine first, then call 911. If someone is with you, have the person call 911 while you give the epinephrine. Lay your child down with legs raised while you wait for the ambulance. Go to the emergency room, even if symptoms improve after epinephrine. Your child must be under medical supervision for several hours. This is because a second wave of serious symptoms (called a biphasic reaction) often happens. Your child can get more treatment at the emergency room, if needed. What Else Should I Know? Serious allergies can be alarming. But you can help keep your child safe. Be sure to: Help your child avoid allergens. Always having two epinephrine auto injectors with your child. Tell any caregivers, teachers, or coaches about your child's allergy and be sure they know what to do in an emergency. Check that your child's auto injectors have not expired and don't get too hot or too cold. Have your child wear a medical ID bracelet so others know to use the epinephrine in case of an emergency. Back to Articles Related Articles 5 Ways to Prepare for an Allergy Emergency Being prepared for an allergy emergency will help you, your child, and other caregivers respond in the event of a serious reaction. Read More First Aid: Allergic Reactions Although most allergic reactions aren't serious, severe reactions can be life-threatening and can require immediate medical attention. Read More Food Allergies Food allergies can cause serious and even deadly reactions in kids, so it's important to know how to feed a child with food allergies and to prevent reactions. Read More Insect Sting Allergy Insect sting allergies can cause serious reactions. Find out how to keep kids safe. Read More All About Allergies Millions of Americans, including many kids, have an allergy. Find out how allergies are diagnosed and how to keep them under control. Read More Going to the Emergency Room Knowing what to expect when you need to take your child to the emergency room can help make it a little less stressful. Read More Word! Allergy Shots and Immunotherapy Imagine if you were always sneezing because you were allergic to something. Read More Shellfish Allergy Shellfish allergies can be serious - and shellfish can appear in some surprising foods and products. Read about shellfish allergy and what to do when a reaction is severe. Read More Bug Bites and Stings Most bug bites and stings are just annoying. But some can cause infections and allergic reactions. It's important to know what to watch for, and when to get medical attention. Read More First Aid: Insect Stings and Bites Being stung by a bug is often just irritating and doesn't require medical treatment. But kids who are highly allergic to stings may need emergency medical care. Read More Allergy Shots Many kids battle allergies year-round, and some can't control their symptoms with medications. For them, allergy shots (or allergen immunotherapy) can help. Read More Hives (Urticaria) Hives cause raised red bumps or welts on the skin. They're pretty common and usually not serious. Find out what to do about hives in this article for teens. Read More 5 Ways to Be Prepared for an Allergy Emergency Quick action is essential during a serious allergic reaction. It helps to remind yourself of action steps so they become second nature if there's an emergency. Here's what to do. Read More Serious Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) A person with severe allergies can be at risk for a sudden, serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This reaction can seem scary, but the good news is it can be treated. Read More Food Allergies Doctors are diagnosing more and more people with food allergies. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with food allergies can make a big difference in preventing serious illness. Read More Food Allergies Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Shellfish Allergy Shellfish allergy can cause serious reactions. Find out common symptoms of allergic reactions and how to respond. Read More Nut and Peanut Allergy A growing number of kids are allergic to nuts and peanuts. Find out more about this problem and how allergic kids can stay healthy. Read More Allergy Testing Doctors use several different types of allergy tests, depending on what a person may be allergic to. Find out what to expect from allergy tests. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.