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Patient education: Anaphylaxis – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

Patient education: Anaphylaxis – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

What are discharge instructions? — Discharge instructions are information about how to take care of yourself after getting medical care for a health problem.

What is anaphylaxis? — Anaphylaxis is the term doctors use for a serious allergic reaction. It can cause serious symptoms, including swelling, trouble breathing, and fainting. Anaphylaxis can happen very quickly and can lead to death if not treated right away.

Anaphylaxis can happen after a person:

Eats a food they are allergic to

Takes a medicine they are allergic to

Is stung by an insect they are allergic to

Sometimes, anaphylaxis happens without an obvious cause.

Anaphylaxis is treated with a medicine called "epinephrine." People who have had anaphylaxis usually get a prescription for a device called an "autoinjector" (for example, the EpiPen). This device has a shot of epinephrine that you can give yourself (picture 1).

How can I care for myself at home? — Ask the doctor or nurse what you should do when you go home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do to care for yourself. Ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

You should also:

Fill your prescription for an epinephrine autoinjector, if you got one.

Keep your autoinjector with you at all times. Make sure that you know how and when to use it. It's also important to know when it expires so you can replace it.

Get plenty of rest over the next few days, if possible.

Avoid foods, medicines, or insects you know you are allergic to. If you don't know what caused your allergic reaction, work with an allergist (allergy doctor) to try to figure it out.

If you also have mild allergy symptoms, like itchy skin or eyes, you can use over-the-counter medicines to help with these.

What follow-up care do I need? — Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to make a follow-up appointment with an allergist. If so, make sure that you know when and where to go.

When should I call the doctor? — Your doctor or nurse will give you instructions on what symptoms to watch for and when to call for help. This is called an "action plan." Make sure that you are familiar with your action plan.

Someone should call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, call 9-1-1) if anaphylaxis symptoms come back. These might include:

You have trouble breathing, wheezing, or a cough that won't stop.

You feel like your throat is closing, or your lips or tongue are swelling.

You feel very weak or dizzy, or faint.

If you have an epinephrine autoinjector, use it and then call for an ambulance. Do not try to get yourself to the hospital.

Call your doctor or nurse for advice if:

You have milder symptoms that don't improve after a few days or get worse – Examples include a rash, congestion, or swelling of the face or lips.

You have questions about your autoinjector or how to manage your allergy.

More on this topic

Patient education: Anaphylaxis (The Basics)
Patient education: Food allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Peanut, tree nut, and seed allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Insect allergy (The Basics)
Patient education: Drug allergy (The Basics)

Patient education: Anaphylaxis symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Anaphylaxis treatment and prevention of recurrences (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Using an epinephrine autoinjector (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Food allergy symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Bee and insect stings (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Allergy to penicillin and related antibiotics (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
Disclaimer: This generalized information is a limited summary of diagnosis, treatment, and/or medication information. It is not meant to be comprehensive and should be used as a tool to help the user understand and/or assess potential diagnostic and treatment options. It does NOT include all information about conditions, treatments, medications, side effects, or risks that may apply to a specific patient. It is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for the medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a health care provider based on the health care provider's examination and assessment of a patient's specific and unique circumstances. Patients must speak with a health care provider for complete information about their health, medical questions, and treatment options, including any risks or benefits regarding use of medications. This information does not endorse any treatments or medications as safe, effective, or approved for treating a specific patient. UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates disclaim any warranty or liability relating to this information or the use thereof. The use of this information is governed by the Terms of Use, available at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/know/clinical-effectiveness-terms. 2024© UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
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