Question: How is anaphylaxis treated?
Answer: Any patient with a history of anaphylaxis needs an anaphylaxis action plan that they develop with their doctor. The anaphylaxis action plan lists the symptoms of anaphylaxis, the early warning signs and symptoms, the medications used to treat anaphylaxis and outlines when to use medications to treat different symptoms. It's important to have a plan beforehand because it's difficult to think clearly in the midst of an allergic reaction. If there's any question, epinephrine is the drug of choice in the treatment of anaphylaxis. It reverses the respiratory symptoms, the cardiovascular symptoms, the gastrointestinal symptoms and the cutaneous symptoms. The onset of action of epinephrine is rapid when it's injected into the lateral aspect of the thigh.
On the other hand, Benadryl, although it may be helpful in reducing cutaneous symptoms, does not work to treat the respiratory symptoms, gastrointestinal symptoms or the cardiovascular symptoms. So, if one is having a minor allergic reaction, Benadryl may be helpful and sufficient.
But if a patient is experiencing anaphylaxis, which is the sudden onset of rapidly progressive symptoms involving more than one organ system, then epinephrine is the drug of choice and should be used. It should be noted that, in fatal cases of anaphylaxis, one of the identified factors leading to fatality is delay in the administration of epinephrine.