Avoiding Anaphylaxis

What do I need to bring and do in case one of my children has an anaphylactic reaction to something like a bee sting on the trail?

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I have three kids younger than five years old, and want to know what I need to bring and do in case they have an anaphylactic reaction to something like a bee sting on the trail. I’d hate to find out the hard way what I should have done.


Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, something you’d like to avoid no matter where you are. It usually occurs within 5 to 45 minutes after someone comes in contact with the substance they’re seriously allergic to, with more reactions coming sooner rather than later. It is possible, however, to have an anaphylactic reaction hours after contacting the allergen.

The usual course of events typically starts with swelling and redness in the face, especially in the lips and tongue, and soon followed by tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. The airway is swelling shut. When the airway closes entirely, asphyxiation follows. Shock, with a rapid drop in blood pressure, may occur at the same time or all by itself without closure of the airway, and the shock alone may be severe enough to cause death.

Anaphylaxis will not occur when someone first contacts an allergen, but early reactions are usually far more serious than one would anticipate. A bee sting, for instance, will cause severe swelling instead of the normal small painful, swollen area that soon fades.

Only one drug has proven effective in reversing anaphylaxis: Epinephrine. The epinephrine must be injected to work, and that means you’ll need a doctor’s prescription for it. The epi will come in a syringe that automatically injects the drug when the syringe is pressed against a body part, the thigh usually the part recommended by docs and the drug manufacturer.

If you use epinephrine, you’ll also be instructed to give an oral antihistamine (such as Benadryl) and plenty of water to the person who had the reaction as soon as that person can swallow. The antihistamine will reduce the chance of a second reaction while you evacuate the person, which you should do, for further medical attention.