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Discharge Instructions for Anaphylactic Shock (Pediatric)

Your child has been diagnosed with a serious kind of allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock. This can happen within minutes of exposure to an allergy-causing substance. Examples of common causes of anaphylaxis in children include penicillin, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, yellow jacket or bee sting, or intravenous contrast given during a CAT scan. Contact with the substance, either through the skin or by eating, causes a severe allergic reaction. Difficulty breathing, coughing, or wheezing may happen, and there may be swelling of the lips and tongue, or hives. The reaction causes a drop in blood pressure. This can be very rapid. Because there is less blood flow from the decrease in blood pressure, less oxygen reaches the brain and other organs, and your child goes into shock. If it is not treated quickly, anaphylactic shock can be fatal. Here’s what you need to know to protect your child.

Preventing an attack

Recommendations include the following: 

  • Be careful! Be aware of your child’s allergies and avoid them. Remember: Anaphylactic shock can lead to death.

  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider, dentist, and pharmacist about any allergies your child has to foods and medicines.

  • Ask your child's healthcare provider if immunotherapy (allergy shots) will help your child.

  • When eating at restaurants, notify restaurant staff of your child’s food allergies. If your child has a food allergy, ask about ingredients and possible cross contamination of foods to avoid an episode.

Using epinephrine pens

Recommendations include the following: 

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider to prescribe an EpiPen, or EpiPen Jr for your child. This is a single-dose injection kit of epinephrine (a hormone that raises blood pressure, increases heart rate and opens up airways). With the EpiPen, you can give your child a shot of medicine to counteract the allergic reaction and buy time until medical help arrives. It is important to have 2 doses with your child at all times.

  • Learn how to give your child a shot. If it makes you uncomfortable, remind yourself that you are saving your child’s life.

  • If your child is old enough, teach him or her to use the EpiPen/EpiPen Jr.

  • Make sure you check the expiration date of the EpiPen/EpiPen Jr.

  • Keep more than one EpiPen/EpiPen Jr. on hand. Carry one kit with you. Keep one at your child’s school or day care center. Keep one at home where it’s easy to find.

  • Make sure your child's healthcare provider supplies instructions on how to use the medicine for your child's school, day care center, or baby sitter.

Warning others

  • Have your child wear a medical identification bracelet that describes the allergy and tells others what to do in an emergency. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to get one.

  • Tell your family, friends, and others what they should do if your child has a severe allergic reaction and you aren’t there:

    • Show them how to use the EpiPen/EpiPen Jr.

    • Tell them to call 911 and to give your child a shot if they think your child is having a reaction.

    • Ask them to start CPR if your child stops breathing.

    • Tell them to make sure your child lies down with legs raised during the reaction.


Make a follow-up appointment.

Get medical attention right away

Call the healthcare provider immediately if your child has: 

  • Drowsiness, fainting, or loss of consciousness

  • Racing pulse

  • Wheezing or trouble breathing

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat

  • Itchy, red, blotchy skin, rash or hives

  • Pale, cool, damp skin

  • Confusion

  • Sneezing, congestion, or runny nose

  • Stomach pain or cramps

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.