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Anaphylactic shock calls for speedy response

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You have read stories of people suffering from sudden, violent allergic reactions - to medicines, to latex, to certain foods like peanuts, soy milk and shellfish, to bee stings. The name of this reaction, which seizes the entire body, is anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis takes people by surprise. While most people going into anaphylactic shock survive, an estimated 1,000 Americans die, often within minutes of the allergic reaction.

Whether the reaction is to a prescribed drug or to a peanut cluster, physicians are often on the hook for not explaining the danger of anaphylaxis, and how to respond to an allergic attack. Anaphylaxis is the reason providers and nurses ask patients about drug and other allergies.

Anesthesia can cause anaphylaxis. Hospital meals that contain the wrong foods have been known to trigger shock attacks.

Have two Epi-Pens on hand

The recommended response to anaphylactic shock is epinephrine. People who know they are allergic carry one - or even better, two - Epi-Pen pens with them at all times. Having epinephrine on hand can mean the difference between life and death. Fire departments keep epinephrine on hand for emergency use. Even if the epinephrine worked, it is a good idea to go to the emergency department for monitoring.

Primary care doctors who fail to refer patients to an allergist, or who fail to explain the serious consequences of going into shock, may be liable for the harm caused. Likewise, doctors who prescribe antihistamine instead of epinephrine may cause the problem to worsen. One study pinpoints prescription medicines as by far the number one cause of anaphylaxis.

Typical signs of anaphylaxis

  • Coughing, wheezing, and tightness in the chest
  • Tightness in the throat, hoarseness, difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Confusion, and a psychological feeling sense of doom
  • Rashes and itchy, swollen or red skin

If you've had a previous anaphylactic reaction, chances are a subsequent reaction will be even stronger. Likewise, allergies often run in the family. Take extra precautions if a family member or close relative has allergies or asthma.

If you or a loved one has suffered anaphylactic shock, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Contact an attorney to learn about your options.

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