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Experts Urge Protection Against Deadly Allergic Reactions

New campaign helps Americans defend against anaphylaxis

FRIDAY, Aug. 25, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. experts are launching a public education campaign to raise awareness about the severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis to help prevent needless deaths.

Anaphylaxis occurs suddenly and can affect many parts of the body at once, explain experts at the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Common causes are food, insect stings, medications, and latex. Anaphylaxis causes up to 1,500 deaths a year in the United States.

The Be S.A.F.E. campaign includes an "action guide" brochure and Web site resources at

"Many deaths from anaphylaxis are preventable with immediate medical attention," allergist Dr. Phil Lieberman, co-chair of the campaign, said in a prepared statement. "For some, especially those with asthma, it can take just one to two minutes for a mild allergic reaction to escalate to anaphylaxis. That's why it's critical for people to know how to take action."

Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction may include hives; itchiness and redness on the skin, eyelids, lips or other parts of the body; swelling of the tongue, throat and nose; nausea, cramping and vomiting or diarrhea; dizziness and fainting or loss of consciousness; and wheezing or difficulty breathing.

The Be S.A.F.E. guide recommends the following steps to take during and after an allergic emergency:

  • Seek immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency number and get to the nearest emergency facility at the first sign of a reaction, even if you've already administered the anti-allergy drug epinephrine.
  • Identify the allergen.
  • Follow up with an allergist/immunologist who can provide testing, diagnosis, and a treatment plan to help manage the allergy.
  • Carry epinephrine for emergencies. People at risk for anaphylaxis are often prescribed kits with fast-acting, self-administered epinephrine shots. People with severe allergies and those around them should know where the kit is and how to give an injection.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about anaphylaxis.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, Aug. 15, 2006
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