How Does Epinephrine Work When Someone Experiences a Severe Allergic Reaction

Mar 06, 2024
How Does Epinephrine Work When Someone Experiences a Severe Allergic Reaction
A severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening. However, an epinephrine pen might save your life in such a situation. Learn more about how it works and why it's crucial to use it immediately.

A severe allergic reaction can come on at any time. If you're allergic to nuts, you could bite into a sandwich from a new restaurant only to find out it has nuts, turning a lovely snack into a medical emergency. 

This frightening scenario is a risk for the nearly 1 in 3 people in the United States who are living with allergies. Many of these people experience severe allergic reactions, also known as anaphylaxis, which poses a threat to their lives.

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic response that happens rapidly. It can impair your breathing, cause a dramatic drop in your blood pressure, and affect how your heart functions. When this happens, epinephrine is a lifesaver. 

In San Antonio and Schertz, Texas, board-certified allergist Dr. Patricia Gomez-Dinger and her team at Advanced Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Center PA provide the best care and education on managing severe allergies.

Take a moment as she explains how epinephrine counteracts the terrifying effects of a severe allergic reaction, making it crucial for anyone who lives with severe allergies.

What happens during a severe allergic reaction?

When someone who has an allergy is exposed to their allergen, whether it's peanuts, bee stings, or any other trigger, the immune system mistakenly identifies it as a threat. 

This misidentification leads your body to release various chemicals, including histamines, which cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. In cases of anaphylaxis, these symptoms rapidly escalate, affecting your respiratory system, blood vessels, and heart.

How does epinephrine work to save you?

Epinephrine is your first line of defense when you have a severe allergic reaction.  In multiple ways, it rapidly reverses the symptoms you're experiencing. 

For starters, it tightens your blood vessels, increasing blood pressure that typically drops to dangerous levels during anaphylaxis. It also relaxes the muscles in your airways, making breathing easier when swelling and constriction have made it difficult.

In addition, it helps to decrease swelling around your face and lips, which can be life-threatening if the swelling obstructs breathing. Epinephrine can also help stimulate your heart, ensuring that blood circulates effectively during a severe allergic reaction.

How is epinephrine administered?

In emergencies, epinephrine is administered through an auto-injector, such as an EpiPen®, which anyone can use. The device delivers a precise dose of epinephrine into your thigh muscle, and it rapidly absorbs into your bloodstream. 

If you have severe allergic reactions, it's crucial to always have an EpiPen on you. When epinephrine is administered quickly, it can prevent anaphylaxis from becoming fatal. 

Why is immediate action necessary? 

Recognizing the signs of anaphylaxis and acting swiftly with epinephrine can save a life. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hives, swelling, a rapid drop in blood pressure, and dizziness. 

Identifying these signs and knowing how to use an EpiPen are vital skills everyone should have, especially those who have severe allergies or who care for someone with severe allergies.

Epinephrine makes all of the difference when facing a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. At Advanced Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology Center PA, our team ensures that all of our patients understand the importance of epinephrine and are ready to act in an emergency. 

If you or a loved one lives with severe allergic reactions, request an appointment with us online or call the office nearest you today.