Anaphylaxis is a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction to an allergen. An allergen is something that your child is allergic to. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child can have a reaction to an allergen seconds up to an hour after contact. To be allergic to something, your child would have had to come in contact with the allergen before. This is when sensitization would happen.


Anaphylaxis happens when a child comes in contact with an allergen. The kind of allergen may be different for every child. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Medicines, such as penicillin
  • Foods
  • Dyes used for medical tests
  • Allergy shots
  • Bug stings
  • Latex

Risk Factors

Anaphylaxis can happen in people without known risk factors. However, the risk is greater if your child has:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Family history of anaphylaxis
  • Had anaphylaxis before


Symptoms appear quickly. Anaphylaxis may happen minutes to hours after being exposed to an allergen. Symptoms may include:

  • Tightness or swelling of the throat, tongue, or uvula (small, soft pendulum that hangs down in the back of your throat)
  • Wheezing or trouble breathing
  • Uneasy feeling or agitation
  • Widespread hives
  • Severe itching of the skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Loss of bladder control

The symptoms of anaphylaxis may look like other health problems. Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.


A doctor can often diagnose anaphylaxis based on a medical history alone. The healthcare provider will look at the following to make a diagnosis:

  • Any known allergies
  • Exposure to allergens
  • Description of symptoms
  • Physical exam, including blood pressure
  • Blood test results, in some cases


Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Your child will need urgent medical care. He or she will probably get a shot of epinephrine. This will help stop the bad effects caused by the allergen. Epinephrine given shortly after the exposure can reverse the symptoms. After the treatment, your healthcare provider can teach you how to use an epinephrine shot just in case there is another exposure. You will have to keep it near your child in case of future events. Talk about this with your child’s healthcare provider.


The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid known allergy triggers.

Living with

If your child has anaphylaxis, you will want to cut the risk of future episodes. You can do this by figuring out the allergen that triggered the first episode. Then you can avoid the trigger. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe an epinephrine shot. He or she will teach you how to use it. You can give the shot quickly if your child has another episode.

Key Points

  • Anaphylaxis is a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction to an allergen.
  • Anaphylaxis is caused by allergies to things such as medicines, foods, dyes, allergy shots, bug stings, and latex.
  • Symptoms of anaphylaxis include: tightness or swelling of the throat, tongue, or uvula, trouble breathing, widespread hives, itching, nausea and vomiting, irregular heartbeat, and loss of bladder control.
  • Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency. Treatment will likely include a shot of epinephrine.
  • The best way to prevent anaphylaxis is to avoid known allergy triggers.

Next Steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.