Discharge Instructions for Anaphylactic Shock (Pediatric)

Healthcare provider talking to man and boy.Your child has been diagnosed with a serious kind of allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock. This can happen within minutes of exposure to a substance that causes an allergy. Examples of common causes of anaphylaxis in children include penicillin, nuts, peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, yellow jacket or bee sting, or IV (intravenous) contrast given during a CT scan. Contact with the substance through the skin or by eating it causes a severe allergic reaction. Your child may have difficulty breathing, or have coughing or wheezing may happen. Your child may have 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: 

  • Be careful! Be aware of your child’s allergies and have him or her stay away from 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 allergy shots (immunotherapy) will help your child.

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

Using epinephrine autoinjectors

Recommendations include: 

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider to prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector for your child. This is a single-dose injection kit of epinephrine (adrenaline). With the epinephrine autoinjector, you can give your child a shot of medicine to help stop the allergic reaction 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 epinephrine autoinjector.

  • Make sure you check the expiration date of the epinephrine autoinjector.

  • Keep more than one epinephrine autoinjector on hand. Carry one kit with you. Keep one at your child’s school or daycare center. Keep one at home where it’s easy to find.

  • Make sure your child's healthcare provider gives you instructions on how to use the medicine for your child's school, daycare center, or babysitter.

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 epinephrine autoinjector.

    • 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.

When to seek medical help

Seek medical help right away 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