MYTH: “We were told to use Benadryl or an asthma inhaler at the first sign of a reaction.”
FACT: Epinephrine is the first line treatment for anaphylaxis — not Benadryl or asthma inhalers. Anaphylaxis guidelines from all professional allergy organizations (AAAAI, ACAAI, EAACI, WAO and the CSACI school guidelines) state that epinephrine is the first line treatment for anaphylaxis, and that it should be administered as early as possible after the onset of symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.
Epinephrine helps reverse symptoms of an allergic reaction by opening the airways, improving blood pressure, and accelerating heart rate.
Studies of anaphylaxis fatalities have consistently shown either a failure to give epinephrine, or delay in its administration. When in doubt about whether or not to use epinephrine for a reaction, err on the side of caution and give it – epinephrine is life-saving medication! Antihistamines and asthma medications can be used following administration of epinephrine as a comfort measure, but they are not a replacement for epinephrine.
Bottom line: Use your epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis, and don’t delay.
Note: Each month on our blog, we are featuring a common myth about food allergies, followed by the facts. Information for this month’s Fact was provided by Dr. Susan Waserman, MSc, MD, FRCPC. Professor of Medicine, Division of Clinical Allergy and Immunology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.