Anaphylaxis is normally an allergic reaction to a food, medication or insect sting. Although most allergic reactions are just unpleasant, anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. Normally when you encounter an allergen, your body overreacts and you end up sneezing, coughing, itching or throwing up. However, anaphylaxis can affect your child's breathing, circulation, skin and stomach all at once.
The signs of anaphylaxis in children can set in from minutes to almost an hour after your child comes in contact with an allergen. You may notice his skin itching, swelling or tingling. He may start to turn red or pale. He'll have trouble breathing and possibly even have trouble speaking, and his voice may become hoarse. He'll feel like he has something stuck in his throat as his airways constrict. There can be wheezing, congestion or coughing, too. Your child can feel nauseous and even throw up due to anaphylaxis. Plus, he'll experience a drastic drop in blood pressure along with a rapid but weak pulse. He might even get dizzy or lose consciousness.
With the onset of these symptoms, your child needs immediate medical care. If he carries an epinephrine injection with him because of previous anaphylactic reactions, it should be administered before you call for help. If this is the first time, call for an ambulance right away. Epinephrine is a dose of adrenaline that helps slow or stop anaphylaxis by decreasing swelling and increasing blood pressure. Paramedics can administer it, along with intravenous antihistamines and steroids. The quicker you react, the less chance your child's anaphylaxis has to intensify. Even if you administer epinephrine and your child's symptoms seem to subside, he needs medical observation. A second-wave attack, called a biphasic reaction, can still occur.