Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction. While mild allergic reactions are localized, anaphylaxis is a body-wide reaction and it can cause system-wide inflammation and swelling. In some cases, the air passages swell, making it difficult to breathe. It is important to act

quickly when a person is experiencing anaphylaxis, as it can lead to death if it is not cared for immediately.

Common Causes

Anything that causes other allergic reactions can also cause anaphylaxis, and the causes vary from one person to another. The most common allergens that trigger anaphylaxis include:

  • Insect stings

  • Food

  • Medications


The following steps may help to prevent an anaphylactic incident:

  • Avoid the substances, foods, or insects that cause reactions.

  • Wear a medical identification product and carry the appropriate medication at all times.

What to look for

The signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis may be similar to the signs and symptoms of a mild allergic reaction, but they are more pronounced. A person experiencing an anaphylactic emergency may develop one or more signs and symptoms within seconds or minutes of coming into contact with the allergen.

Anaphylaxis can affect a variety of body systems and can present in various ways. If a person exhibits signs and symptoms from two or more of these categories—especially after contact with an allergen—you should provide care for anaphylaxis:

  • Skin (e.g., swelling of the lips, face, neck, ears, and/or hands, a raised, itchy, blotchy rash, flushing, or hives)

  • Breathing (e.g., a feeling of tightness in the chest or throat, coughing, wheezing, or high-pitched noises)

  • Alertness (e.g., weakness, dizziness, or unresponsiveness)

  • Stomach (e.g., stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea)

What to do

  • If the person has an epinephrine auto-injector, help him or her to use it.

  • Provide reassurance and encourage the person to breathe normally.

  • Help the person get into a comfortable position.

If the person’s condition does not improve 5 minutes after the initial dose of epinephrine and EMS personnel have not yet arrived, help the person take a second dose, if available. The second dose should be given in the leg that you did not use for the first dose.

If responsive, the person may want to take additional medication such as an antihistamine.

This article previously appeared on Written by Winnie Yu.

Don’t mistake choking as a hazard just for the toddler set. Truth is, anyone can choke, even adults who have been eating solid food for six decades. According to the National Safety Council, choking is the third leading cause of death in American homes, with food being the primary culprit.

“You can really choke on anything,” says Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University and media spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You have to be sure you chew properly and not swallow in big gulps. It’s also important to have fluids on hand, so you can swallow and move things along.”

Alcohol increases your risk. When you drink, make sure to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum, says Dr. Sharon A. Brangman, professor of medicine and division chief of geriatric medicine in at Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  “Drinking alcohol can reduce your judgment and increase your choking risk,” she says. “Talking while you’re eating also raises your risk.”

Since the way you eat your food has as much to do with your odds of choking as what you eat, it’s important to pay attention to both your habits and your food choices. Here are the scenarios that can put you at risk for choking and the foods most likely to trip you up:

Noshing by the Handful

It’s easy to grab that fistful of buttery popcorn at the movies or that scoop of nuts at the party, especially when you’re hungry. But putting too much food into your mouth at once can up the odds of choking. “Foods that people tend to eat by the handful can easily get overloaded in the mouth and aspirated,” Brangman says. Common culprits include nuts, popcorn and grapes.

A Matter of Size

Some foods are problematic because of their size. Foods with small diameters that fit easily into the windpipe can create a plug, which will block airflow, Brangman says. Foods that can easily get lodged in your throat include hot dogs, grapes and carrots and require careful attention to chewing. 

Texture Troubles

Certain textures in food can be hazardous, especially if they’re chewy, dry or viscous. Edibles with these kinds of textures don’t go down easily and may require small bites and extra fluids. Some of the most texturally challenging foods include bagels, peanut butter, overcooked chicken and thick Dutch pretzels.

Big Bites

It’s tempting to eat hearty bites of certain foods, especially when you’re tired and hungry, and the food looks and smells delicious. “I once read that many men try to eat steak about the size of a pack of cigarettes,” Brangman says. But don’t take in more than you can chew. Foods that often garner a big bite include steaks and stacked sandwich.

What to Do If You Choke When You're Alone

Let's say you take all precautions, and you still find yourself choking and in a panic. In that case, there are a few different steps you can take.

In an article for, Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician cohost of TV's The Doctors and the author of The Lean Belly Prescription, says your first line of defense is coughing, something your body does automatically when your airway becomes blocked.

Another strategy is to call attention to your plight by making whatever ruckus you can — it's possible someone will hear and come to your aid.

The Mayo Clinic and most health professionals, including Stork, recommend self-administering Abdominal Thrusts:

  • You can lean over a table edge, chair, or railing. Quickly thrust your upper belly area (upper abdomen) against the edge.

For the care steps for Choking follow this link:

NOTE: The information provided above is not a substitute for first aid and CPR/AED training – get trained today and get empowered.

If the person is able to cough or speak, his or her airway is not completely blocked (mild Choking). Encourage the person to cough and be prepared to provide care if the person stops coughing.

If the person’s airway is completely blocked (Complete Choking), you must begin first aid immediately. Alternate between any two of the following methods until the object comes out: back blows, abdominal thrusts, and chest thrusts. If the choking person becomes unresponsive, ensure that EMS has been called and begin CPR, starting with chest compressions. If the rescue breaths don’t go in and the chest does not rise with the first breath, try re-positioning the head. If that doesn’t work, look in the person’s mouth for an object. Continue to look into the person’s mouth after each set of compressions until the airway is clear. Once the rescue breaths go in, continue CPR normally.

NOTE: The information provided above is not a substitute for first aid and CPR/AED training – get trained today and get empowered.

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