Health Library Explorer
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z A-Z Listings Contact Us

Discharge Instructions for Anaphylactic Shock

You have been diagnosed with a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock or anaphylaxis. This reaction often happens within minutes of exposure to an allergen. But it can be delayed for hours. Common causes of anaphylactic shock include:

  • Foods such as milk, egg, or peanuts

  • Medicines such as penicillin

  • IV (intravenous) contrast dyes used for some X-rays and scans

  • Bee sting

  • Latex products

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock can include:

  • Coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath

  • Throat itching, tightness, or trouble swallowing

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Red, itchy rash (hives), or swelling

  • Dizziness, confusion, or passing out because of a sudden drop in blood pressure

  • Less oxygen reaches your brain and other organs, and your body goes into shock

If not treated quickly, anaphylactic shock can cause death.

Home care

In rare cases, anaphylactic shock can return within 24 to 48 hours. There is no way to predict if this will happen. Call 911 right away if your anaphylaxis symptoms return.

Tips for home care include:

  • Ask your healthcare provider about carrying an epinephrine autoinjector. This is a single-dose injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). This medicine will help to stop an allergic reaction until you can get medical help.

  • Ask your provider for an Anaphylaxis Action Plan.

  • Learn how to use your epinephrine autoinjector. There are different types of injectors available. Each will come with instructions. But have your provider or pharmacist show you how to use it as well.

  • Always carry 2 epinephrine autoinjectors. Sometimes you need to have a second dose in 5 to 15 minutes if your symptoms are not getting better, or start coming back.

  • Check the expiration date of your epinephrine autoinjectors regularly. Don't leave them in the car. They can get overheated or freeze.

  • Stay away from the things that cause your allergic reaction whenever possible.

  • If you have a food allergy, always ask about ingredients when eating food made by others. At a restaurant, tell your waiter about your food allergies. Read all food labels for your allergen.

  • Wear a medical identification bracelet with the information about your allergy. Ask your healthcare provider how to get one.

  • Tell your family, friends, and coworkers what to do if you have a severe allergic reaction. Include:

    • How to use the epinephrine autoinjector. Tell them to give you the shot if you can't.

    • How to position you during a reaction. You should be lying down with your legs raised.

    • When to call 911. They should call right away.

    • When to start CPR. They should start CPR if you stop breathing.

  • Tell all of your healthcare providers about your allergies.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider.

Call 911

Call 911 right away if you have:

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Fast pulse

  • Trouble breathing or wheezing

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Swelling of your lips, tongue, or throat

  • Itchy, blotchy skin or hives

  • Pale, cool, damp skin

  • Drowsiness

  • Confusion

Online Medical Reviewer: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 7/1/2020
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
The health content and information on this site is made possible through the generous support of the Haspel Education Fund.
StayWell Disclaimer